Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 Little Russian (1872) [33:12]
Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29 Polish (1875) [44:40]
Large Symphony Orchestra of the Ministry of Culture, Russian Federation/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
rec. Large Studio, Moscow Radio, 1988-89. DDD
ALTO ALC 1103 [78:03]
This is intriguing. Rozhdestvensky tackling two symphonies outside the usual canon of the final four. Alto declare - First issue in West.
In the case of the Second Symphony things start not well with distortion of that first held fortissimo but they settle down only for it to return momentarily at the start of the finale. I was just reading Nick Barnard’s review of the recently released Bis set of the Tchaikovsky symphonies from Neeme Järvi and the Goteborg Symphony. The spark that Nick noted was missing there is in full and constant ignition here. The playing and the recording is vibrant to the point of being heated. The strings have a glazed Sahara blare but you just don’t mind. The music roars and dazzles and those rushing Tchaikovskian strings are unleashed with massive torque. The Second’s credentials sometimes lie between Borodin and Rimsky. The Andante marziale is delectably tiered and rhythmically shaped – everything is. It’s Rimsky again who comes to mind at the start of the finale and the superb spirited virtuoso playing is accentuated by the stereo spread. The archetypical Soviet brass are fully in evidence in both symphonies. The pert woodwind in the at times balletic Third Symphony are very pleasing – try the start of the Allegro moderato but brace yourself for the mile-high dazzle of the high tensile violins – it’s part and parcel of the sound signature. The distinctive sobbed eloquence of the clarinet at the start of the Andante elegiaco is memorable and very satisfying as is the flaming fervour and nobility of the finale. Concentration is held tight and on a very short leash. Heck, Tchaikovsky and Rozhdestvensky can even make me take pleasure in an exultantly spun fugue!
James Murray provides the liner-notes and as usual offers us new windows onto the two works.
Powerhouse performances and recordings to win converts to these wallflowers among the Tchaikovsky canon. Not to be missed but be ready for far from refined recordings – and thank the stars that they sound the way they do. Outstanding classic versions of works – so good that they may well win you round to two works you might otherwise have left on the shelf.

Rob Barnett
Powerhouse performances and recordings to win converts to these wallflowers. Not to be missed.