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Leshnoff • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 etc

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck, et al (Reference)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Jonathan Leshnoff • Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36; Jonathan Leshnoff: Double Concerto for Clarinet & Bassoon*
*Michael Rusinek (clarinet), *Nancy Goeres (bassoon); Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck
Reference recordings FR-738   61:05 mins

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Tchaikovsky’s Fourth is a work of inspired structural ingenuity, as is clear both from Manfred Honeck’s insightful and extensive notes and this fine recording by the Pittsburgh Symphony on the kind of commanding form older collectors may recall from the orchestra’s 1950s-70s heyday under William Steinberg. In contrast to such hectic accounts as the 1960s Mravinsky (DG) and 1970s Karajan (on DG: CD and DVD), both of whom barely let up for a second in the outer movements, Honeck paces everything so that the eruptions that crown the first movement’s exposition, development, recapitulation and coda retain fully their elemental power to shock. If Honeck’s interpretative tendency is to emphasise the score’s purely symphonic credentials, he still keeps one foot in the ballet theatre – witness the way he magics the slow movement’s long phrases; and the scherzo’s delightful pizzicato ripplings seem to conjure a choreographic scenario. Purists might object to the final coda’s tempo injections, including a hurtling gear-change for the final few bars, although there is no doubting the sense of excitement Honeck generates.

His imaginative and unexpected coupling is the premiere recording of Jonathan Leshnoff’s enchanting 2018 Double Concerto, played with irresistible élan by two of the orchestra’s woodwind principals. Leshnoff’s soundworld, unashamedly tonal, possesses a melodic sensuality and textural piquancy reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s great Russian contemporary, Rimsky-Korsakov.

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Julian Haylock