Samuel Friedmann / Philharmonic Orchestra of Nizhny Novgorod

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.1; Mozartiana

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While Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's fame undeniably rests on his 1812 Overture, the Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique," his less popular works warrant serious attention because they contain much admirable music, though often of a subtler cast than his greatest hits. The melancholy Symphony No. 1 in G minor, "Winter Dreams," and the buoyant Suite No. 4 in G major, "Mozartiana," are two of Tchaikovsky's semi-neglected masterpieces, the former for being a youthful work overshadowed by the later symphonies, and the latter for being atypically Classical in style and lighthearted, not at all what is commonly associated with the brooding, tragic image of the composer. Yet both works are characteristic in that they abound with gorgeous melodies (Tchaikovsky's strongest suit), and they are rich in orchestration, inventive in development, and passionate in expression. This 1995 recording by Samuel Friedmann and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Nizhny Novgorod may be questioned because it appears here as a budget release, but its musical value is quite high, especially for its strong Russian flavor and robust sound quality. The orchestra may seem a bit dry in its overall ambience, but what's lost in resonance is more than made up in presence, and hardly a note is lost in the crystal clear reproduction. Friedmann's conducting is quite conservative and by the book, so there are no excesses in tempos or pacing, and the music is quite enjoyable in both performances, thanks to good taste and the lack of pretensions in the interpretations. These are not the all-time greatest recordings of either work, but for the cost-cutter price, these are more than serviceable and respectable.

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