> Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Pyotr Ilych TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 (1888) [47.32]
Serenade for Strings (1880) [21.37]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
rec Broadwood Hotel Philadelphia, PA, USA, 25 Jan 1959 (Sym 5); 10 Apr 1960 (Serenade) ADD


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Ormandy's 1960s version of the Fifth Symphony complete with outrageously (and I mean gloriously) over-the-top portamenti in the first movement has not been dealt a kind hand by time. As far as I can tell from this disc the problem is down to tape deterioration. This is only evident in the first movement where any sort of massed intensity causes spalling distortion. Not even Mason Jones' solo horn song in the second movement nor yet the lithe waltz of the third can quite redeem this problem. If you want to hear a world-beating off-the-beaten-track recording then go straight to Vanguard's inspirational LSO Fifth with Monteux. Alternatively the Mravinsky version set down by Deutsche Grammophon while the Leningrad Phil were on a rare tour in the UK in 1960 will suit if you crave the adrenalin-soaked temperament.

The Symphony is coupled with a durable and springy Serenade for Strings taken at breakneck speed in the first movement. With music-making of this pitch is it any wonder that Ormandy was happy to pass a take that has someone's cough at 2.35 (track 5). It hardly matters. The lengthy Elegia is played with surging feeling. The luxury article that is the Philadelphia delivers plush strong sound but also resounding attack.

Rob Barnett

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