Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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PIOTR TCHAIKOVSKY Scenes from The Nutcracker (1890) Francesca da Rimini (1876)   Leningrad PO/Evgeny Mravinsky Live recordings from 1981 and 1983 respectively. Concert Hall of the Leningrad Philharmony ICONE ICN9410-2 [59:07] Midprice



This is a rare event: a single CD of Mravinsky-conducted music at bargain price. Icone have a done a respectable job with the radio tapes from which these are taken. Presumably these are the same performances as have appeared on Philips and Olympia in years gone by and currently on BMG’s 20 CD 2 volume series. Mravinsky’s Tchaikovsky is fabled. He attained the heights with fabulous performances from the early 1960s on DGG LPs. These are still available and have been much reissued. I refer here to the stereo version although I know that the Leningrad PO and Mravinsky also had mono performances from the 1950s of Symphonies 5 and 6 and that these have been reissued on CD with a Jansons conducted Symphony No. 4.

Although playing for just short of an hour the present disc represents excellent value. What almost startles is the unanimity of attack and the consistency and colour of the sound. The concert hall ambience also helps even if this means that there is coughing during the Nutcracker excerpts. The Nutcracker is presented with every splendour as a children’s horror book full of strange pictures: fear and beauty stalking the corridors. Bogeymen are under the bed, toys come to life and a snowy romance is in the air. As for Francesca this is one of Tchaikovsky’s most undervalued scores. For anyone who has discovered the composer through Symphony No. 4 I would always recommend hearing a good performance of Francesca before referring them to Symphonies 5 and 6 or Romeo and Juliet. Interestingly I see that the composer planned an opera on Francesca but this came to nothing and it was left to Rachmaninov to produce his own impressive effort (now there is a piece that could do with reissue on CD). Mravinsky plays Francesca at full throttle.

The audience is fairly quiet as well they might be in the face of the white hot winds and passion that thresh the air and the delicate clarinet-led romance that dominates the central softer core of the work. Hearing this performance you can hear what inspired Sibelius in Tapiola and The Tempest and Bax in the grittier romance of November Woods. This is still not the equal of a 1979 BBC broadcast by the LSO conducted by Yuri Ahronovitch but it is amongst the strongest on the market easily jostling shoulders with Stokowski’s famed Dell’Arte recording with the New York Stadium Orchestra. The sound is slightly stressed under pressure but very acceptable. All thanks to Icone for making this available and to LENTELERADIO for licensing the tapes.



Rob Barnett

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Rob Barnett

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