Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5; 1812 Overture

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; 1812 Overture
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-10904-2 DDD
Whether we actually need another Tchaikovsky Fifth with over fifty recordings already in the catalogue is a moot point. But this one, recorded live in Chicago, is rather special. Conductor and players apparently took the work apart and relearnt it for the occasion; the result speaks for itself.


Barenboim has repeatedly demonstrated his mastery of large-scale structures, and it is revealing to hear him at work on a composer for whom form has often been held – not least by Tchaikovsky himself – to be a problem. He shows that in the right hands Tchaikovsky’s structures are as cogent as anybody’s. Each movement on its own is tightly drawn, and the directional impulse is further enhanced by playing them virtually attacca.


In a fascinating booklet interview, Barenboim talks about the influence of Mravinsky’s ‘rigorous approach’ and ‘unrelenting attitude to tempo’. This is clearly evident in Barenboim’s own interpretation, and if one sometimes wonders whether an ounce more Mravinskian passion might have been squeezed out, one can also see that the Tchaikovsky stereotype of lachrymose melancholic has been left behind in favour of something far more impressive. Barry Millington