Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 1

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Mariss Jansons
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman (piano); Bavarian Radio SO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 82876777182
Firmness of purpose marks both these performances, but with differing results. Yefim Bronfman may not give the majestic tune much leeway at the start of the First Piano Concerto, but his and Mariss Jansons’s brisk, no-nonsense approach to the ensuing wealth of ideas in this massive and, let’s not forget, innovative movement holds everything together well. There’s tenderness but no self-indulgent lingering in the lyric respite, though not quite as much fantasy throughout as Sudbin finds in his challenging recent account on BIS. The inner parts in both the piano and the orchestral parts are scrupulously clear – sensationally so in the Concerto’s central scherzo-like passage – and the palpable sensation of a live performance in the charges towards the winning posts of the outer movements.

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Jansons is up to his old tricks in the Fourth Symphony, with added dynamic fussiness in repeated phrases and extra timpani rolls at two crucial points, though the Bavarian Radio strings are a good deal fleshier than their Oslo counterparts, so well disguised on Chandos’s overrated Tchaikovsky cycle. Everything is in place as the score demands, and the orchestra has been impeccably drilled, but there’s a certain coldness and calculation: Jansons has much of the great Mravinsky’s discipline, but not his nose for atmosphere (except in the wonderfully vocal woodwind questions in the dying fall of the ‘canzona’). Again, the clarity is impressive, and well captured by the live recording, but I’d rather hear a flawed Fourth with more to say, like crazy Stokowski or, more recently, the uneven RPO/Gatti interpretation (Harmonia Mundi).

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David Nice