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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 [44:18]
Swan Lake ballet suite [26:29]
Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Lindberg
rec. January-February 2012 and February 2013, Harstad Kulturhus, Harstad, Norway
BIS BIS-SACD-2018 [70:47]

The first time Christian Lindberg ever played in a professional orchestra, he was manning a trombone in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth under the baton of Evgeny Svetlanov. That tells you a lot: he loves this music, knows it inside-out, and drives his players hard in a thriller of a performance full of high romantic emotions.
 
Mostly, anyway. Lindberg’s pace for the first movement is one of the fastest of all time, with a balletic pointedness and precision to the dramatic effects. His slow movement too is on the speedy side. The back half of the symphony breaks from this pattern: the waltz takes its time and the finale is not the frenetic, pell-mell rush one would expect from Svetlanov … or Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO, or Mravinsky. I don’t know whether Lindberg is making a deliberate choice or if the Arctic Philharmonic just can’t handle the speed - but they do in the symphony’s opener. Even so, it’s not quite as exciting as it could be. On the other hand, I’ll give them this: those fearsome, martial-sounding interludes that act as transitions (3:40-3:50, 7:58-8:08) have rarely sounded so amazingly weird and off-his-rocker brilliant. I love this performance just for making me hear these passages anew and think, “wow, Tchaikovsky was really a genius” in a brand new way.
 
Truly, I like this Tchaikovsky Fifth a lot. I think Daniele Gatti and the Royal Philharmonic can be preferred, because of a truly luxurious slow movement that makes the quicker stuff around it really pop. I’m also partial to some old favourites. That said, this one’s a winner, and you can’t discount the superb BIS SACD sound. It does what Jansons’ now-classic reading on Chandos does at least as well as Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic managed. There’s something about Tchaikovsky from Norway.
 
The coupling is the suite from Swan Lake, and it’s definitely well-enough played to merit yet another copy of this music in your collection. That goes especially well if you have a high-end audio system and really want the solo harp to pop out of the walls and into your room, or want your drink to shake with the bass drum thwacks. Again, the waltz is rather mild-mannered. The last few dances are an exciting compensation.
 
This bodes pretty darn well for future Lindberg/Arctic recordings. It’s also vastly superior to the blasé Neeme Järvi Tchaikovsky recordings which BIS released a few years ago. I listened to 24-bit FLACs downloaded from eClassical; the PDF booklet is lovely and my ears feel satisfied.
 
Brian Reinhart 





Masterwork Index: Tchaikovsky Symphony 5