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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4
CD 1
Suite No. 1 in D minor, Op. 43 (1879) [42:48]
Suite No. 2 in C major, Op. 53 (1883) [35:04]
CD 2
Suite No. 3 in G major, Op.55 (1884) [40:20]
Suite No. 4 in G major, Op.61 'Mozartiana' (1887) [25:10]
Hugh Bean (violin); Colin Bradbury (clarinet)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Antal Dorati
rec. London, August 1966. ADD
DECCA THE ORIGINALS 4781708 [77:53 + 65:30]
Experience Classicsonline

These are very musical performances. Nothing feels forced yet one is conscious of a care for these unfashionable pieces. The age of the forty year old recordings is betrayed by the slightest glare on the upper strings.

The First Suite's ample six movements has the shine taken off, not by Dorati, but by Tchaikovsky who could not resist tacking a fugue onto the first movement. Otherwise the invention here is lively and redolent of such disparate works as Manfred (I) and Nutcracker (IV). The Second Suite is another very substantial item this time in five movements of often balletic character. You can hear this in the flighty silver of the Valse and the lugubrious and then friction-less Rêves d'enfant. The emotional temperature rarely rises above the sort of warmth you find in the Capriccio Italien or the Serenade for Strings. The gracious Third Suite was much beloved of Sir Adrian Boult who recorded it twice (Decca (now Beulah) and HMV). Dorati has the measure of the work as you can tell by the release and control of the first movement from 2:50-3:10. There is a symphonic chill to Valse Mélancolique and a split-second accurate urgency to the Scherzo with its echoes of Astarte and the waterfall in Manfred. The finale at first has the air of the Fifth Symphony but then the composer seems to say to himself “let’s have something more befitting a suite”. It then becomes more balletic. It’s impressive and not without fervour. The Fourth Suite has in common with the others one movement very much longer than the others; in this case it is the finale. Tchaikovsky idolised Mozart and wished that he could have emulated Wolfgang’s towering success in opera. Here three Mozart keyboard pieces are dressed in Tchaikovskian orchestral garb. A similar treatment is applied in the third movement to the motet Ave Verum Corpus K618. The finale is from Mozart's ten variations on a theme by Gluck. The suite is off the same shelf as the Rococo Variations. Stravinsky was later to do for Tchaikovsky in The Bluebird what Tchaikovsky did for Mozart in this Suite. 

Being in The Originals series each disc reproduces, on the non-playing side, the appearance of the original vinyl issue. This comes complete with a facsimile of that sacramental oil-product sheen. Nostalgia-philes will also appreciate the Decca FFSS logo and banner. 

The notes are by John Warrack who reminds us that the final Gavotte of the first suite might well have been a source of inspiration for Prokofiev's Classical. 

Dorati's 1966 analogue set of the four orchestral suites is a much-reissued classic and makes compact good value as well as musical sense.

Rob Barnett

Alternative recordings:
Marriner on Phoenix (see review)
Svetlanov on BMG-Melodiya (see review)



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