Tchaikovsky Symphonies 4 & 5
Three years ago, Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO launched a Tchaikovsky cycle with accounts of the First and Sixth Symphonies that struck me as being not only committed and well-played but insightfully imaginative as well. In this new instalment, the performance of the Fifth comes closest to continuing in that earlier vein. I especially enjoy the finale, which is taut and bracing; occasional stinging accents provide scintillating moments amid propulsive energy and momentum. On the whole, however, this Symphony receives a plainer treatment than I expected, one that favours alertness and precision over atmosphere. This tendency is most apparent in the coda of the finale, which sounds relentlessly uninflected and thus hollowly ironic rather than grandly triumphant. The Fourth seems even more stilted; it’s a ‘reading’ rather than a sweeping, deeply felt recreation. The opening fanfares and descending scale in the horns and low brass create a marked rhythmic profile but lack dynamic direction and flair. The oboe solo in the second movement conveys details of articulation rather than expressive character. The little woodwind garlands that adorn the same theme near the end of the movement are more prosaic than gestural. The pizzicato strings in the third movement seem anything but light on their feet. And so on. Still, the LPO acquits itself well, and climaxes possess all the fizz and firepower one could want.