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Symphony No. 5 in e, Op. 64 (1888) [43.35]
Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 (1880) [13.09]
rec. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, December
Track list/timings, no notes.
Monophonic recording processed with the NoNoise system. ADD.
Symphony No. 5:
Pierre Monteux, LSO, [ADD] Silverline DVD-Audio
Classics 288 228-9
Monteux, LSO, [ADD] Vanguard Classics 8031
Stokowski, New Philharmonia Orchestra Decca Weekend [ADD]
Classics 433 687-2
von Karajan, BPO [ADD] EMI CDM 64871
St. Petersburg PO [96 kHz/24 bit DDD] RCA BMG 82876 65831-2
Dorati, MSO [ADD] Mercury Living Presence 434 360-2
Bernstein, NYPO [ADD] Sony “Royal Collection” No. 57
Fiedler, Boston Pops Crystal Clear LP CCS 7003
Fiedler, Boston Pops [ADD] Laserlight 15312
Scherchen, LSO [1953 mono AAD] Tahra TAH 415
RPO [DDD] RCA BMG 82876 65831-2
Symphony - actually his tenth - is the most difficult
to conduct, or at least the most difficult of the last
three Symphonies. The famous horn solo is obviously a reworked
tenor or bass aria from opera sketches, and the seams show.
The valse is ballet music. Taneyev was intense in
his criticism of the work for this reason. Who knows how
Tchaikovsky might have revised this work if he had lived
beyond age 53? Van Kempen’s performance of the Fifth
Symphony is a fine reading, in the top twenty, but
these days you want one with modern sound. The three versions
listed above are in everybody’s top six, Monteux for beauty,
Stokowski for drama, Karajan for energy. Take your choice,
or take all three as I have. But we are all individuals,
and my favourite performance of all time is Odd Grüner
Hegge conducting the Oslo PO on an old RCA Victrola LP.
There will be many people who like this Kempen performance
over all others, but they may not know anyone else who
This recording of Capriccio
Italien is arguable the very best performance ever
recorded. Considering how much Tchaikovsky is recorded,
it is very unusual for a single recording to be better
on every point than others; usually, there is a best slow
performance, a best fast performance, a best orchestral
balance performance, a best historical performance …. But
apart from the mono sound, this recording takes the sweepstakes.
I first heard it over local radio, long after it was deleted,
and have searched in vain for a copy until now. Bless ArkivCD!
They have performed for me the exact service for which
they were organized.
Hermann Scherchen gives
us more detailed, more realistic mono sound. This recording
was a famous HI FI demonstration disk when first released.
There’s also a great deal more Russian soul in the slow parts
- taking nearly three minutes longer than van Kempen. When
the music winds up for the finish it sounds more manic than
joyous. Bernstein’s style here fits the music better than
usual, and his performance with the NYPO is one of his best
Romantic music recordings. Dorati is another good choice
for a stereo version but both Bernstein and Dorati have a
tendency to rush over subtleties in the race to the finish
line, whereas Fiedler is willing and able to slow down briefly
to allow a phrase to take a deep breath. All these versions
enjoy excellent stereo sound although none of them is exactly
new. The Fiedler CD was made from an original direct-to-disc
recording instead of a tape; in fact the LP is still available
from collectors’ sources. You’ll note that every version
I have commented on so far is an analogue master.
Temirkanov offers an excellent
96/24 digital version - which may some day come out on a
DVD-Audio - of this same program, with the same depth of
Russian soul in the Capriccio Italien that Scherchen
offers. His Fifth Symphony is a little on the eccentric
side, not far from the Stokowski approach, but very satisfactory
overall. However this digital recording will lack the IM
distortion, midrange acoustic feedback resonance, transient
clipping, attenuated dynamics, pitch instability — oh, excuse
me! I mean, of course, “warmth and richness” — that analogue
Some critics complained
about audible artefacts of digital noise reduction with the
NoNoise system. However if there are any such artefacts here
I didn’t notice them while enjoying the music and I have
enough experience to know what to listen for. All I noticed
was clear sound against a quiet background.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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