Christoph Poppen

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3

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As Christoph Poppen and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie continue their survey of the symphonies of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, their approach to the Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Little Russian," and the Symphony No. 3 in D major, "Polish," seems obligatory, with performances that are competent rather than inspired. With fine renditions of the First, Fourth, and Sixth symphonies already released by Oehms Classics, one might have hoped that Poppen could have elicited some of the vitality and spontaneity of those performances, and given these fairly neglected symphonies the boost of energy they need. The Second and the Third have languished for decades in the shadow of the last three symphonies, and their rather workmanlike and unprovocative music have made them the least admired of the cycle. Even with Tchaikovsky's skillful orchestration, ear for a good tune, and ability to work up convincing developments, the music needs colorful and vigorous playing to make it interesting, let alone compelling or exciting. Poppen gets efficient playing from his musicians, and the performances are certainly respectable for their clarity and lack of exagerrated expressions. Yet it's difficult to rate these recordings as highly as Poppen's previous releases because they seem adequate and dutifully executed, and perhaps even useful for study purposes, but less than spellbinding.

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