Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64; Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: BR Klassik
WORKS: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64; Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: BR Klassik 900105 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This is Mariss Jansons’s second recording of the Fifth Symphony, the first having been part of the complete cycle that he recorded with the Oslo Philharmonic. He has not changed his approach, a good thing since it strikes me, in this symphony in particular, that his concern with clean, lean but intense articulation is just what is needed. His approach is obviously influenced by his one-time boss Evgeny Mravinsky, and the Leningrad Philharmonic sound which he cultivated. It is at the opposite extreme from the lush lusciousness of Karajan, effective in its way as that is. 

Jansons pays a lot of attention to structure, and only puts on the brakes or accelerates where Tchaikovsky indicates – which is unusual. Yet there is no parsimony in his interpretation, or indeed in the superb playing of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, one of the most impressive in the world. Even Jansons can do little with the coda to the last movement, but it is less embarrassing than it often is. What is striking, too, is that he gives full value to those regions of the score which are most like the great ballets, as well as to the great symphonic build-ups of passionate outpouring.

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The difficult-to-realise Francesca comes off well too, with the contrast between the divine torment visited on Francesca and her beloved and the beauty and value of that love itself vividly portrayed, while the whole is bound into at least a semblance of unity. Michael Tanner