ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4-6
PERFORMER: Arctic Philharmonic/Christian Lindberg
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2178 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Few readers, I suspect, know the Arctic Philharmonic, and I only knew Christian Lindberg’s live work as the world’s most individual trombonist. So much the better for Tchaikovsky, then, that an unfamiliar group should take on masterpieces with which long-established symphony orchestras may be over-familiar.
There turns out to be no need to fear Lindberg’s introductory booklet words about sticking to the original metronome markings – my scores only have them for the Fifth and Sixth – and avoiding rubato that goes against ‘the composer’s precise intentions’. It’s true that Lindberg is less elastic than the best Tchaikovsky manner of Claudio Abbado and Riccardo Muti, but he’s never as extreme as Yuri Temirkanov. Nor is this a middle way lacking in charisma. Rhythms and dynamics are all faithfully observed and backed up by atmospheric playing – strings just short of the fullest-bodied Russian sound, but nimbler; and while the recording’s only fault is to over-spotlight the oboe solo in the Fourth’s canzona and the lugubrious bassoon launching the Sixth, the woodwind have bags of personality.
Lindberg’s Tchaikovsky Five first appeared on an earlier BIS disc. Since then (2014), the much-praised new concert hall in Bodo, Norway has opened, where the sequels were recorded. The Fifth’s outer movements are supremely articulate and brilliant at the right (fastish) speeds; the Fourth boasts the most dreamlike (Berlioz Queen Mab-style) Scherzo. But consistently the best is the most recently recorded, a Pathétique of perfect proportions and plenty of fire which really does deserve to rank among the best.