Various Artists

Best Tchaikovsky 100

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EMI's six-disc collection of the best of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky touches on all of the essential masterpieces, so anyone who listens to this set will have an advantage over others who settle for a single, barely representative greatest-hits CD. Granted, it has limitations, chiefly in what was picked for the program. Only the Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Variations on a Rococo Theme are presented in their entirety, so almost all of Tchaikovsky's other multipart works are highlighted by just one or two movements. This can give newcomers the false impression that the remaining concertos, symphonies, suites, and other long forms consist only of the named selections. For example, the tracklisting does not indicate that Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker are presented as suites from the much longer ballets. However, once beginners are made aware of these excerpts, the survey can be appreciated as a generous sampler that reveals the great variety of Tchaikovsky's works. Many of the label's exceptional performers are included here: important EMI conductors from the past, such as Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan, and Adrian Boult, are accounted for, as are contemporary maestros like Rudolf Barshai, Mariss Jansons, and Vladimir Fedoseyev; furthermore, the list of instrumentalists and singers includes pianist Mikhail Pletnev, violinist Vladimir Spivakov, cellist Paul Tortelier, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, tenor Nicolai Gedda, and bass Boris Christoff, among many other distinguished musicians. Because the recording dates cover several decades and the reproduction is either ADD or DDD, the sound varies a fair amount over the course of 100 tracks. Yet if this set is regarded as a reasonably comprehensive introduction to Tchaikovsky's music, eventually to be replaced by complete and superior recordings, then listeners will not mind the slight changes in audio quality and will focus instead on the wealth of music and EMI's impressive backlist.

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