Tchaikovsky: Symphonies

Evgeny Svetlanov

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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Review

by Blair Sanderson

Presented on five CDs, this Melodiya box set of the symphonies of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky is a digitally remastered reissue of Evgeny Svetlanov's 1967 cycle with the USSR State Academic Symphony Orchestra, alternately known as the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra. It's a familiar saying that nobody plays Tchaikovsky as passionately and as musically as a Russian orchestra, and these highly expressive recordings definitely bear out this adage. Despite the rather concerning relegation of the performers' names to tiny print on the back of the package, and the obvious matter that these are analog recordings, listeners need not worry that this is an inferior product. Melodiya's famous audio reproduction gives the symphonies clean sound in vibrant acoustics, and the orchestra has true depth and presence, with spectacular tone colors in a wide dynamic range. Svetlanov's readings are flexible and fluid, with a modest amount of rubato and some careful adjustments of the orchestral balance to heighten the counterpoint, which is sometimes obscured in overly homogenized western recordings. Audiophiles and connoisseurs might have preferences for more modern, state-of-the-art recordings, but most listeners will find the sound perfectly satisfactory and the performances quite compelling.

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