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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 3 in D, Op. 29, Polish (1875) [48:18]
The Sleeping Beauty (1889) - Suite, Op. 64A [19:46]
Gürzenich Orchestra, Cologne/Dmitri Kitaenko
rec. Studio Stolberger Strasse, Cologne, November 2010 and December 2011
OEHMS CLASSICS OC670 [68:19]

This is part of an SACD cycle on Oehms Classics. Dmitri Kitaenko is obviously doing fine things in Cologne. Way back in 2004 I was impressed by a Shostakovich Eighth from this source, but on Capriccio. There is an obvious rapport between conductor and orchestra.
 
Interesting that this should come my way as soon after a performance of the Polish at the Proms: Prom 42, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits. The Cologne orchestra is the finer ensemble of the two, and the recording is nicely detailed; the Albert Hall's cavernous acoustic inevitably stole some detail.
 
Kitaenko is a superb conductor, pacing the first movement to perfection. The woodwind's way with the opening of the second movement Alla tedesca is most appealing, charming and sophisticated, characterised by an underlying tenderness. There are fine woodwind contributions to the Andante elegiaco, just as there are beautifully songful string passages lovingly balanced by Kitaenko, who seems to have a fine ear for texture. The finale includes some superb string articulation in the imitative sections, and Kitaenko is excellent at tracking the various moods. Orchestral playing throughout is perfectly on the ball, and the rousing conclusion is highly impressive in this recording.
 
In this repertoire - and also well recorded - comes both the Oslo Philharmonic under Jansons and the Chicagoans under Abbado. Interestingly there’s another fine and characterful Bournemouth performance, this time captured on disc, on BBC Legends under Silvestri (BBCL 4258, recorded 1967). Even so, Kitaenko bows fully to no-one in this very satisfying account.
 
The opening bars of the Introduction to the first movement of the Sleeping Beauty Suite hold more drama than the entire Third Symphony - certainly as heard here. The spirit of the ballet is never far from the Polish symphony so the coupling is entirely apposite. This is a tenderly sculpted performance that acts as the ideal make-weight. Kitasenko finds plenty of spirit for the climax of the Pas d'action (the second movement); yet equally impressive is the silken string cantabile in Panorama. The final, famous Valse is wonderfully unbuttoned and just shy of riotous.
 
A rewarding disc, without doubt. A sonic and musical triumph, it holds much to delight.
 
Colin Clarke