This is pretty much of a success. At super-bargain
price Brilliant deliver three DDD discs by an eminent conductor and
top-flight orchestra. The last three Symphonies are well known so there
is little need for description and the same applies to the concertos.
These occupy the fourth disc which is ADD and licensed from Opus in
Rozhdestvensky is sturdy. He knows these works of his
fellow Russian very well. Perhaps his andantino for No. 4 could
have done with more of a lilt but the élan and flightiness of
the Scherzo more than compensate. Also on the positive side the
valour and high romance of the Allegro con fuoco communicates
well if without the ferocious unanimity and steely edge of Mravinsky
and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (DG). Rozhdestvensky's Fifth
is broad, earnest and controlled. There is none of the near hysteria
of Mravinsky. We could have done with more of that rather than having
everything quite so buttoned down. The brass are caught on good form
with a healthy rasp in the brass buffets at 4.10 of the first movement.
The French horn section is in the pink with a mature rolling roar to
their ravening calls and fanfares. The conductor also adopts an expansive
stance in the Pathétique but avoids the extremes. I have
heard nervier interpretations of the allegro molto vivace but
the playing is spirited enough. The best movement is the adagio lamentoso
where not once is the concentration broken and where a myriad orchestral
details register with fresh clarity. An example is the metallic rattle
of the horns played well - all the way down to pp.
Of the 'makeweights' two are the war-horse stock of
the Royal Albert Hall Victor Hochhauser concerts of yesteryear. Each
of the three fillers is allocated one per symphony. The Marche
is one of Tchaikovsky's few concessions to the Borodin nationalist school.
The Capriccio Italien (that strange mix of Italian and French
in the title) exhibits the virtues of tight control and precision (as
an illustration listen to the controlled 'jabs' of the strings at 4.03).
This is a deliberate and four-square approach rather than a euphoric
one. While I hanker after more substantial fillers: e.g. Hamlet,
Francesca and Romeo and Juliet two of those selected (the
Marche and Capriccio) will go down well with the novice.
The Storm (after the play by Ostrovsky) is a rarity; not top-drawer
Tchaikovsky but Rozhdestvensky gives it a lively interpretation avoiding
The two concertos are from a Slovak analogue source
complete with almost vestigial hiss. The sound is coarser than that
for the Rozhdestvensky discs and can be raw when the strings are under
pressure at forte and above. I am guessing that these two tapes were
made in the mid to late 1970s. Toperczer has plenty of power and the
orchestra is on good form though the tremulous flute in the andantino
semplice will not be to all likings - it isn't to mine. Spivakov
is very good with a tone rather like a cross between Oistrakh's and
Mullova's. It is ringingly (almost aggressively) clear in this recording
which is an improvement on that of the Piano Concerto. Spivakov's playing,
in some way I cannot articulate, expresses intelligence as well as emotional
architecture. He despatches Tchaikovsky's hurdles with style and control.
The sound on this disc is recorded at a much higher level than on the
There are no liner notes at all and no discographical
information - no dates or locations.
The three DDD discs have demonstration quality sound
and if Rozhdestvensky can be rather four-square the performances are
of a type that would satisfy in the concert hall. They do not set the
pulse racing nor are they manic. These are honest and inspired without
exaggeration or affected point making. Much the same can be said of
the Toperczer piano concerto. Spivakov is in a different league altogether
- something special there. All in a no-frills package. Shop around.