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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 4 (1877-8) [44.48]
Francesca da Rimini (1876) [24.34]
Bamberger Symphoniker/José Serebrier
rec Konzert und Kongresshalle 'Sinfonie an der Regnitz', Bamberg, Feb 2001 (Sym), Feb 2000 (Francesca)
BIS-CD-1273 [70.20]


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Serebrier first swam into my vision as the conductor Ives' problematic Fourth Symphony (CBS, I think). He does not stand out from the pages of the record magazines and, hardly merely coincidental, he is not stabled with any of the majors. There has nevertheless been a steady trickle of new releases from a variety of companies. I have felt honoured to review several of these. The most recent was the extremely fine Sheherazade he did for Reference Recordings (seek it out).

This Tchaikovsky disc is ultimately not mainstream competitive. Is it the hall, the orchestra (the Bamberg did some great work with Järvi in the symphonies by Martinu and Glazunov), the engineering? Whatever the reason the sound lacks grip and the listener is denied the generous bark and luxury to be had elsewhere. Listening past this demerit the musical values are high but not irresistible. Serebrier deftly terraces the scherzo. There is some abrasive rhetoric from the brass complement. I could instance a myriad attentively and inspiringly lit details but the performance as a span does not hold this listener in the same way that the DG stereo Mravinsky does or for that matter the Philips Markevich version. The Serebrier Francesca has much the same character with the conductor casting glances over his shoulder at his master, Stokowski. This is most evident in the furiously barbarous Roerich-timbres of the stomping final pages.

Rob Barnett


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