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Decca Phase 4
6. Third Movement
by David Barker
Third Movement - Adagio: In memoriam (Eternal memory)
Unsurprisingly, the key emotion here is grief for the
fallen. The movement begins pizzicato in the lower strings
- the survivors slowly crawling away perhaps - leading into
a funeral march, literally, as the melody is borrowed from
the song “Funeral March of the Workers”. The violins
keen out their grief before the brass introduce a new darker
and angrier theme, using the song “Hail, Free Word of
Liberty”. This is taken over by the violins in more hopeful
mood, and this builds to the emotional climax of the movement
which is so Tchaikovskian, it would not be out of place in Swan
Lake. After this, drained by the outpouring of grief, we
return to the march that opened the movement.
Even more than in the first movement, there are extraordinary
variations in tempo, from Lazarev under 9 minutes to Caetani
over 15. With such a difference, you would expect that one
approach might work better than the other, and you would be
|| Lazarev, Rozhdestvensky
| 10-14 min
|| Petrenko, Berglund, Haitink, Barshai, Stokowski, Kitajenko,
Let’s take them in increasing order of duration.
Lazarev’s decision to take this so quickly - andante at
the very least - is a mistake. There is no tragedy or grieving
in it, and the majesty of the Tchaikovskian theme is lost. It
should have been a case of “let’s see if this speed
works - no, it doesn’t - do it again slower”.
Rozhdetvensky is not quite as quick, but the same comments apply.
Clearly, he had some specific ideas about how to approach the
symphony, but to go from such a slow pace in the fast movement
to such a fast one in the slow seems to me to be rather perverse
(and unsuccessful). Rostropovich and Petrenko choose very different
approaches to the mainstream, but they hold to their ideas across
the whole work, which seems a better way.
Petrenko’s brisk tempos overall did not serve him well
in the first movement, and I expected a similar problem here.
However, that wasn’t the case - he was able to express
the intense emotions without seeming to rush. Berglund is perfectly
adequate here, but there are a number that probe the depths of
Haitink is again a little too detached, but Barshai regains the
intensity found in the first movement, the climax being particularly
gripping. Surprising for me was the restraint shown by Stokowski
to the point where the sense of sadness is not as strong as for
Again the unheralded Kitajenko rings absolutely true - everything
sounds just right. The pizzicato strings at the start bring to
mind the image of someone tiptoeing away from the scene of the
slaughter. There is a very strong sense of grief throughout,
and the climax is as good as the Rostropovich. I would love to
hear Kitajenko conduct Tchaikovsky. This is the best of all.
The engineering of the live Rostropovich lets him down here -
the opening march is almost inaudible (the occasional audience
noise is louder). This time, his slow tempo does not get in the
road of the music - quite the contrary, I’m pleased to
be able to report that here at the very least, this much-praised
recording lives up to the plaudits. The emotional outpouring
is beautiful, and the Tchaikovsky feeling is very strong.
The DePreist, slightly slower than the Rostropovich, plods with
a heavy tread throughout, and while this is more appropriate
here, it still remains unimpressive.
The Caetani is more than a minute slower again, and at first
I thought it would be drawing the music out too far. The pizzicato
bass march at the start is very slow, but a different beat to
the DePreist. However, rather than remaining at this pace, Caetani
builds to the climax, and it is as glorious and intense as the
Best: Kitajenko, Rostropovich
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