Yuri Temirkanov at the BBC Proms
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Le Corsaire, Op.21 - Overture (1844) [9:13]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Manfred Symphony in B minor, Op. 58 (1885) [47:44]
The Nutcracker, Op. 71 - Pas de deux No. 14 (Act II) (1892) [5:47]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Enigma Variations, Op.36 - Variation IX (Nimrod) (1898-1899) [5:24]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet - Suite No. 1 Op. 64 bis - Death of Tybalt (1936) [4:00]
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
Video director: John Michael Phillips
Picture: 4:3/Colour
Sound: PCM stereo
Region: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
rec. BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 26 August 1992
ICA CLASSICS ICAD 5065 [72:00]
ICA’s active Twitter feed confirms just how much new material they’re releasing, the focus on historic/archive recordings of genuine value and interest. Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing their CD of Evgeny Svetlanov’s (in)famous 1968 Prom, the anti-Soviet feeling in the hall adding to the raw intensity of that night’s Shostakovich 10th (review). Even more remarkable is the transformation that followed; the prickly Prommers are soon silenced by the ferocity of Svetlanov’s reading, finally responding with rapturous applause at the close. No such turmoil attends this 1992 Prom, given by Yuri Temirkanov and the newly renamed St Petersburg Philharmonic, yet the long list of encores suggests it was a night to remember.
The concert gets off to a very promising start with a lithe, elegant and delightfully propulsive account of Berlioz’s Le corsaire, the music-making every bit as dapper as our smiling, well-groomed maestro. The picture is 4:3 rather than widescreen, but I was astonished at how crisp and clear it is; as for the PCM sound it’s warm and, despite some spotlighting, it’s pretty well balanced. It’s certainly a far cry from the oft compressed sonics and technical jiggery-pokery that we’ve come to expect from more recent Proms. And all credit to the BBC’s John Michael Phillips for his discreet and intuitive video direction.
The main work, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Manfred’ Symphony, seems slightly more popular now than it once was, with a CD - and a 2011 Prom - from Vasily Petrenko and the RLPO, and an exceptional SACD from Dmitri Kitaienko and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln (review). Indeed, the transparency and abundant insights of the latter confirms the quality of the piece, and shows how unfairly neglected it is. As for Temirkanov’s Lento lugubre it may seem a tad deliberate, but that essential air of Byronic yearning is there, the sound ample and expansive in those hammering tuttis. The Russian horns are characteristically plaintive and overall sonorities are pleasing.
The first movement peaks most dramatically, the timps and tam-tam adding terrific slam to the proceedings. No limp-wristed aesthetes here, the Vivace nimble and beautifully pointed, the gurgling woodwinds and bird calls superbly caught. As a breed Prommers are hard to please, but the excited buzz after this movement suggests that ‘Manfred’ is working its magic. The Andante con moto is a model of eloquence and feeling, the strings especially silken. Temirkanov shapes it all so naturally, and already there’s a palpable sense of approaching apotheosis, that deep Tchaikovskian. swell building below the surface.
As for the orchestra, drilled so long and so relentlessly under the Mravinsky regime, they play with rare warmth and spontaneity; that said, the old discipline kicks in where necessary, the emphatic start of the Allegro con fuoco hinting at a pate-cracking finale. The rapt concentration among the string players is both audible and visible, and the final pages - sadly, sans organ - are very impressive indeed. The applause is long and loud, triggering the first of three encores; according to the booklet the orchestra did the same at both Proms that year. The delectable, harp-infused Pas de deux from Act II of The Nutcracker gets the big-band treatment, Elgar’s Nimrod an unexpected but impassioned follow-up. And despite the obvious heat of an August night there’s a taut, dramatic account of Tybalt’s death from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet

Another splendid DVD from ICA, technically excellent and with good liner-notes. I imagine they may have tweaked the sound and picture - some visuals are a little too sharp - but really this is a fine tribute to the BBC, whose Proms productions then were often superior to the ones we see now.
An indispensable record of a memorable night.
Dan Morgan
An indispensable record of a memorable night.