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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 4 (1878) [40:00]
Serenade in C major for String Orchestra op. 48 (1880) [33:01]
Russian Federation Large Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (symphony)
Moscow Radio Large Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Fedoseyev
rec. Large Studio, Moscow Radio, 1988 (Sym); 1992 (Serenade). DDD
ALTO ALC 1104 [72:35]

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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in E minor op. 64 (1888) [46:00]
Moscow - cantata (1882) [25.57]
Russian Federation Large Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (symphony)
N. Derbina; A Polyakov; Choir and Large Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Gennady Cherkasov
rec. live Studio 5, State Radio House, Moscow, 1988 (Moscow); ADD/DDD
ALTO ALC 1105 [70:50]

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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B minor op. 74 (1893) [45:41]
The Nutcracker suite op. 71a (1892) [22:00]
Russian Federation Large Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (symphony)
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Pavel Kogan
rec. Large Studio, Moscow Radio, 1989 (6); Moscow Film Synchro Studios, Oct 1990 (Nutcracker)
ALTO ALC 1106 [67:43]
Experience Classicsonline

Rozhdestvensky’s career has been prodigiously busy - not least in the recording studio. The second half of the 1980s saw him just as active for recording labels. These three discs - only available separately - represent the second time from that period that he turned to the three last-numbered Tchaikovsky symphonies. This is the first time they have been issued outside the Russian Republic. The other cycle you will know was first issued by IMP Pickwick and was taken down in London in 1987 with that most authentically Russian-sounding of non-Russian orchestras, the LSO. That trio of discs remains a stunningly good choice at any price range and can still be had on Regis RRC 3009 (review).
This Fourth is kinetically magnificent with the conductor paying special attention to the telling use of finely judged acceleration. It benefits from Russian wind and a towering passion that in the first and last movements has the brass phalanx taking voluptuous rage close to tragic rupture. The Andantino is rushed - as it was with the LSO - but the sprinting pizzicato third movement works well even if it does test the piccolo player. This is not as visceral as Mravinsky’s classic London-recorded 1960 stereo version; then again neither is it as mad-eyed manic. The Fifth goes with a doe-eyed lilt, with an indomitable gait and with fiery inspiration in the finale which I had to replay immediately. While it knows drama it is not quite as volcanic as Mravinsky’s Leningrad Fifth (DG, recorded in London in 1960) nor overall is it as satisfying as the gloriously sculpted Monteux/LSO version on Vanguard. The Sixth is outright superb with a warm and close recording of the woodwind detailing of the first movement. This is diluted by a pulling back on the controls for the louder sections but my this is blisteringly imaginative Tchaikovsky! Not once does Rozhdestvensky loosen his extraordinary grip. It’s even more effective than the Mravinsky-Leningrad.
Fedoseyev’s Serenade for Strings glows, hums and cheers with no holds barred yet makes room for delicacy and the finest emotional topography - as in the quasi-Elgarian Elegia (III). This is a nicely achieved recording and in the finale even the background pizz can be heard without undue strain through the main melodic stratum. The Moscow Cantata was previously issued on Regis RRC 1182 five or so years ago. It has the melodramatic crimson of Derbina who grips the music by the throat while Polyakov is wonderfully forward and vibrant. Listen to Derbina’s implacable concentration in the pendulum of time tolling through Am I a warrior. The six part work (each with its own track) is to words by Apollon Maykov. The final section is grand and the choral part blazes - the two soloists stand and deliver like true stalwarts. The vibrantly rushing repeated string waves echo with 1812 (tr. 6 4.55) and the brass writing growls impressively as it also does at the end of section 4 From the Large Forest (4.34). Back to Kogan and the first issue of the Nickrenz-Aubort sessions Nutcracker Suite. Hushed and distant rather than shimmying up close this is an understated Nutcracker sequence and all the better for that.
Notes by James Murray and apart from the merest hint of blast in the more extreme choral moments in the Moscow Cantata these are vivid recordings from a gloriously purple tradition.
I urge all true Tchaikovskians at the very least to hear the scorching Rozhdestvensky Sixth but the others are special too.
Rob Barnett 



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