Tchaikovsky/Rimsky-Korsakov: Symphony No. 4

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol; Saito Kinen Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
Ozawa’s view of Tchaikovsky has always been that of a disciplinarian and perfectionist. But, as this latest Fourth shows (from his ad hoc Saito Kinen Orchestra, founded in 1984), he could be stronger on characterisation and structure. It’s a reading short on symphonic unity, with the more lyrical passages tending towards excessive self-containment, over-preparation and exaggerated punctuation. The canzona (coolly expressive) and finale (potentially electric) possibly convince. The opening movement, on the other hand – including that spurious fermata in bar 402 sometimes interpolated by conductors for ‘dramatic’ effect – leaves a flaccid impression. Curiously, because on overall timing Ozawa is actually faster than either Mravinsky (DG) or Svetlanov (BMG Melodiya), both of whom manage to generate a greater sense of apparent urgency and rhythmic tension, seemingly by just signposting the form less self-consciously.


The Rimsky-Korsakov is spotlit and detailed, but without much Russian authenticity or Iberian evocación. Individual credits for solo violin and harp remind one momentarily of Sheherazade and Araby – but that’s about the extent of the interest. Maazel or Dorati are more physically gutsy. Ates Orga