Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Complete Symphonies

Various artists
rec.1983-98. DDD
full Track-List at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94307 [7 CDs: 442:00]
The Brilliant Classics label again lives up to its name with a bargain box of extraordinary quality and desirability.
In this 7 CD set, each disc provides a symphony and a bonus overture or tone poem. Given that space was found for Tchaikovsky’s youthful programmatic piece The Storm, I could wish that The Tempest had been included, too, but that is currently available on another excellent bargain disc from Regis alongside Rostropovich’s earlier Rococo Variations and the Souvenir de Florence. Otherwise, this is a remarkably comprehensive survey of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works by four of the greatest living Russian conductors, all born in the 1930s, happily still with us, and directing some of the best British orchestras. While it is perfectly possible to retain a preference for individual recordings, no performance here is less than excellent. For example, Stokowski’s celebrated 1958 Francesca da Rimini (review review) is a tour de force that will never be surpassed for dynamism, but the version here by Simonov is still profoundly satisfying. Similarly, while I will not be retiring Abbado’s early recordings of the Second and the Fourth Symphonies with the VPO and the NPO respectively on DG, I would be happy to live with the recordings here by Simonov and Rozhdestvensky. As a bargain box this new issue could hardly be bettered.
Tchaikovsky’s symphonies are interpretatively tolerant of a wide variety of tempi. There are what at first sight appear to be idiosyncratic choices from the conductors here. This is especially true of Fedoseyev, who tends to extremes in comparison with Markevitch in No.3 (review), but one is not conscious of any excess while listening. This is the authentic big Russian sound: grand, serious readings with profound emotion but never slipping into sentimentality.
Obviously Rozhdestvensky’s readings of the “Big Three” form the core of this collection. He has the advantage of the LSO in finest form and, as with all the recordings here, finest digital sound. The horns in the Andante cantabile of No.5 could hardly be dreamier or more seductive. The rasp of the superb LSO brass in the opening movement of that symphony creates a sombre, yet paradoxically thrilling, effect. Rozhdestvensky’s choices of speed tend toward leisurely and his phrasing is weighty. As with Mravinsky’s famous 1960 recordings on DG (review), every instrument is so characterful in its interpretation of the notes, although Mravinsky does not enjoy modern sound. Comparison with Sian Edwards’ Fifth on EMI makes her sound merely lugubrious - and even there, as late as 1990, the recorded ambience is a bit muddy alongside the clarity given to Rozhdestvensky.
His Fourth Symphony first appeared on Pickwick and was instantly welcomed as a compelling reading. Everything is so purposeful and controlled without any sense of calculation; he insists on the orchestra maintaining precise articulation and builds the finale unerringly. This ensures that the listener enjoys the physical thrill Tchaikovsky intended despite his vision of the work being considerably more expansive than, say, Mravinsky’s more manic version.
That clarity and control harnessed to exuberant release is a virtue shared by Simonov; I have never heard a more convincing account of the Second. Winter Dreams is harder to pull off but Fedoseyev makes it a thing of both charm and real substance.
Anyone who wants to hear Tchaikovsky’s symphonies and large-scale orchestral works played wholly authentically and recorded in finest sound, need not hesitate.  

Ralph Moore

A bargain box of extraordinary quality and desirability … could hardly be bettered.
Related reviews
Same discs as part of the 60 CD Brilliant Classics Tchaikovsky Edition (review)
The three last numbered symphonies (LSO/Rozhdestvensky) as issued on Regis (review

Complete Track-List

CD 1 [58:36]
Symphony No.1 in G minor Op.13 Winter Dreams
1 I. Daydreams of a winter journey: Allegro tranquillo [13:00]
2 II. Land of gloom, land of mist: Adagio cantabile, ma non tanto [11:07]
3 III. Scherzo: Allegro scherzando giocoso [7:52]
4 IV. Finale: Andante lugubre - Allegro moderato [11:33]
5 1812 Overture [14:56]
Festival Overture in E flat Op.49
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev (1-4)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Gibson (5)
rec. 1998 (1-4); 1989 (5)
CD 2 [64:16]
Symphony No.2 in C minor Op.17 Little Russian
1 I. Andante sostenuto - Allegro vivo [12:27]
2 II. Andantino marziale - quasi moderato [7:53]
3 III. Scherzo: Allegro molto vivace [5:53]
4 IV. Finale: Moderato assai [11:18]
5 Francesca da Rimini Symphonic Fantasia in E minor after Dante [26:16]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Yuri Simonov
rec. September 1989, St. Peter’s, Morden, London
CD 3 [66:45]
Symphony No.3 in D Op.29 Polish
1 I. Introduzione e allegro - Moderato assai (Tempo di marcia funebre) - Allegro brillante [13:31]
2 II. Alla tedesca - Allegro moderato e semplice [6:47]
3 III. Andante elegiaco [9:47]
4 IV. Scherzo: Allegro vivo [6:24]
5 V. Finale: Allegro con fuoco (Tempo di pollaca) [10:41]
6 Hamlet Fantasy Overture for orchestra in F minor Op.67a [19:02]
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev
rec. 1998
CD 4 [53:19]
Symphony No.4 in F minor Op.36
1 I. Andante sostenuto - Moderato con anima [19:07]
2 II. Andantino in modo di canzona [9:42]
3 III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato [5:32]
4 IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco [9:06]
5 Marche Slave Op.31 [9:42]
London Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
rec. February 1987, All Saints, Tooting, London
CD 5 [63:42]
Symphony No.5 in E minor Op.64
1 I. Allegro - Allegro con anima [15:23]
2 II. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza -Moderato con anima [13:24]
3 III. Valse: Allegro moderato [5:50]
4 IV. Finale: Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace [12:14]
5 Capriccio italien Op.45 [16:40]
London Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
rec. February 1987, All Saints, Tooting, London
CD 6 [59:58]
Symphony No.6 in B minor Op.74 Pathétique
1 I. Adagio - Allegro non troppo [18:22]
2 II. Allegro con grazia [7:24]
3 III. Allegro molto vivace [9:23]
4 IV. Finale: Adagio lamentoso - Andante [10:20]
5 Overture - The Storm - Overture after Ostrovsky [14:16]
London Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
rec. February 1987, All Saints, Tooting, London
CD 7 [80:20]
Manfred Symphony in B minor Op.58
1 I. Lento lugubre [18:31]
2 II. Vivace con spirito [9:56]
3 III. Andante con moto [11:51]
4 IV. Allegro con fuoco [19:20]
5 Romeo and Juliet- Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare [20:28]
Rod Elms (organ) (1-4)
London Symphony Orchestra/Yuri Simonov (1-4)
Kirov Theatre Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov (5)
rec. 4 June 1983