BMG have shot themselves
in the foot with this release. Although
it is an SACD and the sound quality
is very good indeed, is 44’14"
long enough to warrant the additional
cost for a recording, good as it is
which is now almost 50 years old? Moreover,
it was, until relatively recently, available
on a double album containing Symphonies
4, 5 and 6 by these same artists. In
this format there is absolutely no difference
in sound quality between the audio CD
in the older coupling, and the SACD
version played on a standard CD player.
Given the size of Monteux’s
recorded legacy with RCA, there is plenty
more material, which could have been
added to this disc to make it more competitive.
This is in the Living Stereo series
which improves every time of issue.
When they were originally released on
vinyl in this country, the Decca pressings
were not all that good. For a long time
the quality of the original recordings
remained hidden from us. It was only
with the advent of CD that these early
RCA issues began to show just how good
they were in terms of sound quality.
There were a few problem discs – i.e.
the first issue on CD of Brahms Piano
Concerto No. 2 with Gilels and Reiner
which sounded shallow, shrill and congested.
The latest issue on EMI ‘Great Conductor’
series shows just how good the original
recording actually was.
Enough of the recording,
how well does the performance of Tchaikovsky’s
masterpiece stand up against the competition?
Monteux was famous for his recordings
of the Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and
Nutcracker ballets and this is the quality
most to the fore in this recording.
As always with the Boston Orchestra
under Monteux, the playing is immaculate,
neat and tidy, and somewhat balletic
in nature. If you are looking for the
Russian passion of a Mravinsky or in
modern terms, perhaps Pletnev, you won’t
find it here.
symphony is full of passion and when
played in this manner can move mountains.
Here, the mountains would hardly move.
However that does not negate this performance,
and much pleasure may be had. If you
are interested in hearing what the composer
actually wrote, laid out clearly and
concisely in good sound by an orchestra
who obviously loved the man they were
working with, this could be the disc
Speeds are slightly
on the fast side of average and in this
day and age this is not a bad thing.
One very important feature of recordings
such as this is the superb acoustic
of Symphony Hall in Boston. Once again,
it was not until these recordings started
to be re-mastered for CD that they began
to be heard as the original engineers
recorded them, and as the original master
tapes had captured them.
The first movement
has all the movement you would wish,
although the passion is held very much
in check. The second movement 5/4 waltz(?)
movement is very balletic, and if it
were not for the strange (for Tchaikovsky)
time signature, the movement could have
been lifted from one of the ballets.
The March goes at a good pace and generates
much of its excitement from the music
rather than flashy conducting. The last
movement is very moving, but not in
a heart-on-sleeve manner – the passion
comes from Tchaikovsky’s music itself.
To sum up this is a
very fine issue, but measly on playing
time and value for money – much better
to look for the double album in the
second-hand shops – 09026 61901-2.