Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos 4-6

Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic excel in Tchaikovsky

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Evgeny Mravinsky (1960) Deutsche Grammophon 477 5911

At the height of the Cold War, the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under its legendary principal conductor Evgeny Mravinsky visited Britain in September 1960, giving sensational concerts in Edinburgh and London which drew ecstatic responses from both press and public.

Since this virtuoso orchestra was then poorly represented in Western record catalogues, Deutsche Grammophon’s engineers astutely seized the opportunity to capture their playing in far superior sound to anything that could be produced by their Soviet counterparts. Among the most notable sessions taped in Wembley Town Hall was Mravinsky’s blazingly urgent account of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

Ever the perfectionist, the conductor was so pleased with the quality of this recording that two months later he and the orchestra agreed to record the last two symphonies for DG, this time in Vienna’s Musikverein. Initially released on three separate stereo LPs, these Tchaikovsky performances convey a highly-strung raw energy that remains undimmed up to the present day. The Finale of No. 5, delivered at a manically swift pace, is one of high points, guaranteed to take your breath away.

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