> Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony - Maazel [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Manfred Symphony (1885) [54.57]
Hamlet (1888) [17.28]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Lorin Maazel
rec 1972 (Manfred); 1965 (Hamlet) ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 466 671-2 [72.46]





Maazel's Manfred with the VPO is extremely satisfying and it still sounds very strong; as does his Hamlet. Maazel has a superb orchestra at his disposal and, rather as they did in the Sibelius symphonies, they apply themselves with unwavering commitment and untired imaginations. There is not a spavine episode or a commonplace moment in these recordings.

Time after time the orchestra's single-mindedness and focus reaches out to the listener. Try the motoric clockwork at the close of the vivace con spirito. In the andante con moto (at 5.50 in tr 3) has the gaunt skeletal bell ever sounded as gothic as this. At 12.11 in the finale the dialogue of the harps is delightfully luscious. The rapped out horn blasts at 15.10 contrast well with the baleful imprecations of the trombones and the shattering impacts at 15.35.

Although I am not shaken from my prime Manfred recommendation of the 1966 Svetlanov, raw and abrasive as it is, the Maazel is a resoundingly good version. At circa 3.33 plus postage and any relevant import duty from Buywell it is a good inexpensive choice. Seafords should also be able to supply.

Maazel's grippingly blazing, brass emphatic, almost resentful, Hamlet dates from the earliest days of Decca's long dalliance with the VPO and Maazel. This is certainly one to contrast with Stokowski's famous Vanguard (or Dell'Arte) recording and Dorati's on Philips. At 7.20 we get one reminder that although Tchaikovsky seems not to have had much time for nationalism he had his sympathies with the woodwind lyricism of Borodin and Balakirev. I am grateful to the distinguished reviewer and contributor of the liner notes, Raymond Tuttle, for telling me that this work is dedicated to Grieg. There is more analogue hiss in the Hamlet than in the Manfred but I hardly noticed it such is the power of the music-making.

A highly recommended disc.

Rob Barnett

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