Jerzy Semkow

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

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While it is fair to question the need for yet another recording of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, this point shouldn't adversely affect the reception of this performance by the Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Semkow. The symphony's status as a warhorse has been repeatedly confirmed for many decades, and the steady release of recordings every year shows the work's enduring popularity, and perhaps a lack of imagination on the part of labels. But as far as this performance goes, the thoughtful interpretation, organic emotional development, and polished playing make this 2010 disc quite a bit easier to take. Semkow is a traditionalist who applies plenty of rubato and tempo modifications to bring across the unstable passions in the music, though this never becomes exaggerated or grotesque, and the expression stays within accepted bounds. The orchestra is sympathetic and fully responsive to the score, and with ample Slavic feeling, it plays the proverbial heart out of it. Anyone who comes to the work for the first time probably can't do much better, for this is certainly a worthy recording, and even a jaded listener who has heard countless other renditions must concede that this is a successful performance. However, the CD is skimpy for its 48:49 timing, so if some filler pieces had been provided to round out the disc and give it greater value, the package would have been a much sweeter deal.

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