Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E Minor op. 64

October 11, 2019

4035719001044

 

            01 Andante – Allegro con anima 14:48
02 Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza –
Moderato con anima 12:25
03 Valse. Allegro moderato 5:43
04 Finale. Andante maestoso –
Allegro vivace (Alla breve) 12:03

Total time 45:38
Bavarian Radio Symphony
Mariss Jansons / conductor

BRK900104 W/ CATALOG

In celebration of ten years, BR Klassik’s (radio station founded in 1980) label is offering this CD for $4.99 with a catalog of their releases. This Mariss Jansons recording was released in 2009, a live recording in Munich. It was re-released for this anniversary without the “Francesca Da Rimini” selection.

The initial idea for a new symphony came to Tchaikovsky in April 1888 about the time he was also working on the overture to Hamlet while staying in Frolovskoye, a town outside of Moscow, to get away to compose. There was a doubt as he wrote to his younger brother Modest, “Now I am gradually and with some difficulty, squeezing a symphony out of my addled brain.” He expressed doubt to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck saying “Am I really written out?” The rough draft was completed by the end of June and the orchestration was done by the middle of August with the composer being relatively pleased with the work.

The orchestral premiere took place in St. Petersburg in November of 1888 with the composer conducting. While friends of Tchaikovsky were enthusiastic about the performance critics were very harsh towards it. Alfred Einstein accused the neurotic  Tchaikovsky of exhibitionism of emotion claiming the composer had succumbed to spasms of melancholia. This lead Tchaikovsky to further bouts of depression and failure as a composition.

Today it stands out as a work of great orchestration, harmony, and filled with many melodies and takes its place as one of the great symphonies which are listened to and performed often.

The main theme is introduced and darkly played by a clarinet which is a cyclical one in all four movements, where Tchaikovsky made some program notes about it but discarded it. In it, he said of the first movement “… a complete resignation before fate which is the same as the inscrutable predestination of fate…” It is a sonata, taking the form of many classical symphonies as the first movement. It offers five themes switching from major to minor keys and returning at the end to the recurring main theme.

The second movement or andante cantabile is one of the more recognizable tunes having been performed in films and as a single called “Moon Love” by Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra among others with lyrics by Mack David, Mack Davis, and Andre Kostelanetz. The five-note melody on the horn going gently upwards is introduced by the strings. There is a theme by the oboe and the horn a return to the main theme and finally, the clarinet which remains in a dream-like state.

The third and shortest of the movements is a waltz which has three melodies from the violin, oboe, and bassoon, and bassoon including a scherzo and finally back to the main theme.

The fourth movement returns to the recurring main theme before the violins take-over with an allegro. There are two additional themes from the woodwinds, strings, and flute. The brass and the trumpets finish off the movement with a return to the main theme.

There are over 100 recordings of the Fifth Symphony in a single form, the last three symphonies, or a set of six symphonies with or without the Manfred. All of the major conductors have recorded some or all of the Tchaikovsky symphonies. Included in this mix is Mariss Jansons who also recorded the set in 1984 with the Oslo Philharmonic for Chandos as well as this release for BR Klassik’s in 2009. Both recordings are very similar in tempo and style which is straight from the score, perhaps a little bit on the quick side but certainly not pushed in any way. It is far from the almost frantic pace of the Mravinsky 1960 DG stereo recording, the most recommended performance. To get this recording you have to purchase 4, 5, and 6 as opposed to getting a good quality Symphony No. 5 at a reduced price by a conductor who has Russian Soul and an orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony who understands Russian music.

One thing that I didn’t like was the humming in the background of the conductor. The first time I heard it I had to go back and re-listen to it to make sure I had not made a mistake. I heard it on my higher end Grado headphones and not my Bose speakers so the sound is very soft. I wouldn’t let this prevent me from purchasing this recording.

I found the wave download file from Naxos to be perfectly acceptable for my listening needs. It was free of any glitches that sometimes occur.

This is a good buy and I would recommend it if you don’t have it or as a gift to someone.

 

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