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Cameo Classics

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in E minor op.64 [45:24]
Final rehearsals [34:43]
International Festival Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. live, Royal Albert Hall, Proms, August 1973. Dolby A tapes for the concert and an old LP for the rehearsal. ADD
Experience Classicsonline

Beside the Horlicks and Bournevita conventionally offered in versions of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth this is a reviving draught.

With every year that passes I find Stokowski most often the source of the volatile and the inspired. I only regret that we seem to have been unable to source a review copy of the new EMI Capitol Records Icon set.

This Tchaikovsky 5 with its massive 140 piece orchestra is alive with those quick intensifying accelerations masterfully done. They are such momentarily one does not recognise the work yet the results are richly enjoyable. It’s a live performance so you need to put up with much shuffling and some coughs and clicks, a fleeting fluff towards very end of the first movement and a dropped tambourine 16:23 in the second movement which in turn is also given one of the most affecting readings ever. The third movement has an urgent lilt and the blurt and blare of the brassy finale rasps off a layer of skin. It’s as impassioned as Mravinsky (DG and BMG) to the point of manic at points. While it does not supplant my reference version (Monteux LSO Vienna, 1960 on Vanguard) it’s a visceral version which takes on the most recent Dudamel (DG) and so far as the spirit of the day is concerned stands two steps above it. At the close of the finale every fanfare is skirled with grand panache. It receives a volcanic eruption of applause. You’ve got to hear it. It’s very special.

The LP origins of the rehearsal track is betrayed by LP clicks and clunks. Stokowski is firm but insistent with his young players and delivers his requirements in an accentless voice. His gentle words and delivery are memorable: “Please do what the conductor says. There is acid as well but directed away from his youthful charges - “Drown the printers in the Thames.” His concentration on the crowded horn benches and his insistence on instructions about bells up, down or mid position is coupled with wise counsel: “Make it easy for yourself … make it good for the music.” Let me tell you: this rehearsal is no also-ran - no time-filler.

Rob Barnett


















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