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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55 (1883) [41’11"]
Suite No. 4 in G major, Op. 61, Mozartiana (1887) [26’14"]
Ruggiero Ricci (violin)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Lorin Maazel (Op.55).
Suisse Romande Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet (Op. 61).
Rec. Sofiensaal, Vienna, June 1977; Victoria Hall, Geneva, December 1966. ADD
ELOQUENCE 476 2723 [67.37]

 

Another superb release from Australia. This is another Eloquence disc including recordings receiving their first international release on CD and they are very, very welcome. Whilst Maazel’s set of the Tchaikovsky symphonies have been released and re-released over and over again, this recording of the third suite has, until now, never seen the light of day.

Maazel’s interpretations of Tchaikovsky are well known: bold, romantic, and totally idiomatic, and this performance of the third suite is cast in this vein. The glorious string tone of this aristocratic orchestra is wonderfully captured in the warm, clear acoustic of the now lamented Sofiensaal, Decca’s favourite recording location in that city until it was consumed by fire a few years ago.

Tchaikovsky wrote his four suites fairly close together, between Symphonies 4 and 5. They were somewhat of an experiment, as he was basically a composer of the theatre, and found symphonic form something of a strait-jacket. By not titling these Suites as Symphonies, he could let his imagination run and not feel constrained by form. As it turned out, all four works could pass as Symphonies up to a point. They can give as much musical satisfaction to the listener as the more formal works.

The Third Suite has a sonata form first movement, a waltz (typically Tchaikovskian), a Scherzo and finally the great Theme and Variations, which until recent years, almost lead a completely separate life of its own. Let me advise you, that if you are only aware of the last movement, the others are certainly its equal and very well worth hearing.

The coupling is of what is possibly the best known of the four suites and seeing the names of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande made me wonder how the two performances would sit together. I need not have been concerned; I remembered Ansermet’s superb interpretations of the three Tchaikovsky ballets by these forces. Although the Victoria Hall acoustic is marginally drier, Ansermet’s long experience with ballet brings enormous dividends to his readings of the suites.

Tchaikovsky was a lifelong fan of the works of Mozart and in Russia in the mid-to late- eighties were very much less well known than they are today. Tchaikovsky wrote his fourth suite Mozartiana as a pastiche in the style of Mozart in the hope that Russian audiences of the day might develop an appetite for Mozart’s works. I have been unable to find any independent confirmation that this happened, but it makes a nice story.

This Eloquence release is another from the Australian Division of Universal. It should make the European arm of the company sit up and take notice. I have recently reviewed about half a dozen of these Eloquence discs, and making up an order of at least four would be no problem. The four discs inclusive of air freight from Australia and delivery within one week will set you back the equivalent of just over a couple of mid-price releases at the local record store. It’s a bargain of a lifetime. There is no need to delay, only extreme enjoyment awaits you.


John Phillips

 



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