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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
CD 1
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in D minor [36:07]
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in C Suite Characteristique [33:51]
CD 2
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in G [39:02]
Orchestral Suite No. 4 in g Mozartiana [24:16]
CD 3
Romeo and Juliet (Fantasy Overture) [18:27]
Francesca da Rimini [23:59]
Capriccio Italien [14:48]
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart/Sir Neville Marriner (suites)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner (CD 3)
rec. Stuttgart, 1987 (suites); St Jude’s, London, 1991-2 (CD 3)
PHOENIX EDITION 412 [3 CDs: 66:57 + 63:18 + 59:35]
Experience Classicsonline

I didn’t come to this set with high expectations but was pleasantly surprised because the playing is quite lovely. The principal joy is the Third Orchestral Suite, one of Tchaikovsky’s most under-rated works. Marriner treats it with all the grandeur and scale that this music deserves, building to a magnificent account of the extended finale, surely Tchaikovsky’s most thoroughly worked set of variations. The various solo sections are taken very effectively by the Stuttgart players and the final explosion of vigour is most infectious. This set is worth acquiring for this alone, and the super-budget price most definitely helps.

The other suites are just as distinguished. The contrapuntal seriousness of No. 1 can sometimes feel a little wearing, but it is polished and refined here, with the correct balance of light-heartedness in the sparky final marches. No. 2 is as playful as the movement headings suggest, while the horns really shine in the scherzo. Mozartiana is affectionate and warm in the first three movements, and well judged in the variations of the finale. The whole is captured in the warmest sound where every detail is in place and there is a gorgeous bloom surrounding the instruments. All told, this is lovely music, beautifully played and shaped by a conductor who holds a real affection for it. If you want a super-budget edition of the Suites this is as good a one as you’ll find, and altogether more satisfying than Stefan Sanderling’s Irish recording on Naxos.

The tone poems aren’t quite up to this level, mainly due to misjudged pacing. The opening lugubre of Francesca da Rimini is fantastically intense, but then the storm music is too slow to maintain tension while the love music is that little touch too fast to flourish. Similarly, the fight sequences in Romeo and Juliet are too slow and Friar Laurence’s music plods, though the coda has a lovely valedictory glow. Capriccio Italien is perfectly respectable, but really these three works should only be seen as a bonus filler to the suites and I’d clearly favour this release for anyone who wants to acquire those.

Simon Thompson 


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