Shipshape and unremarkable
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 06/24/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone wanting a reprise of Gergiev's outstanding Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 with the Vienna Philharmonic is likely to be disappointed in this issue, a concert performance by the same forces of the composer's great "Fate" Symphony No. 4.
This is not to say this is bad musicmaking. The sound on this issue is honest and warm, although not brilliant. The Vienna Philharmonic maintains its reputation as the most Viennese band in the world, a characterization that perhaps does not work all that well in Tchaikovsky's Slavic emotional world.
In addition, the playing time of less than 43 minutes make this an expensive addition to anyone's collection at full price. Surely Philips could have found a diskmate for this, perhaps from the same October 2002 concerts from which the recording was gleaned? The notes -- both pages of them -- don't tell you much about Tchaikovksy, Gergiev or the music, either.
So in the final analysis this is a shipshape, unremarkable and perfectly appointed version that fits into the merely good category of so many perfect recordings by big name bands and conductors. Among others I have heard of this symphony, the Szell-London Symphony and Karajan-Berlin versions fit the same mold.
Like his predecessors in this music, everything is done well but nothing in any way extraordinarily. They all smooth over every rough edge and sharpen every orchestral moment to icy perfection. I did not expect Gergiev, a fiery Russian, to join the league of industrial perfection in his rendering of Tchaikovsky. But so be it, I guess.
What I found most curious here was how this recording did not fit the view suggested by James Leonard's review on the BMG web site. "While anyone with ears to hear could tell that Valery Gergeiv's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 is the most fully re-imagined and the most thoroughly thought-through interpretation in decades, that still doesn't mean Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 is any good," Leonard said.
"While anyone with ears to hear could tell that the colors shine with a brighter brilliance, that lines glow with an inner intensity, that the rhythms move with a relentless inevitability, that the dramatic structures proceed with purposeful determination, that still doesn't mean that Tchaikovsky's Fourth is any good.
"And while even a deaf man could tell that the Vienna Philharmonic plays with its customary ineffable virtuosity and Philips' sound is still among the cleanest, the warmest, and the most realistic in the world, that still doesn't mean Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 is any good.
"Because for all the intelligence, the imagination, and the passion that Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic bring to the music, Tchaikovsky's Fourth still sounds like a symphony on the edge of a nervous breakdown, a symphony whose hysterical themes, histrionic developments, excessive orchestrations, and unrestrained banality express the quintessence of incipient dementia."
Can't say I agree much with this assessment in any substantial way. A thoroughly re-thought performance? I don't think so. That's the description critics have, for decades, bestowed on the legendary Abbado-Vienna recording on DG from the mid-1970s. where musicmaking in the optimum places emphasis on the voices rarely heard in this music -- the woodwinds.
I don't hear any bureoning mental illness in Gergiev's approach, either. I would argue just the opposite, that he deletes this aspect of the music in his passion for control over the score and players. The first movement, started at a basically slow tempo that changes later (as if the likes of Eugen Jochum were conducting) does little to suggest dementia or mental illness...or disorder of any kind. The tempo and mood change a bit but the overall affect does not.
Gergiev, to my mind, moves in a completely opposite direction -- toward total control and order, ala Szell and Karajan. His direction in the concluding Allegro con fuoco is metronomic until the peroration. The mundane approach deletes any of the imagination the BMG review found.
To me, this is a rerun of the Szell and Karajan recordings where none of the three suggest the emotions on the edge of disarray that Bernstein projects in his 1958 New York recording. This, I believe, is more the nature of Tchaikovsky and his fate symphony and this is the version I recommend readers consult if they want to hear a more fully-realized version of Tchaikovsky's emotions and musical message."
J. Buxton | Waltham, MA United States | 04/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It seems Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic wanted to complete the trilogy of the last three symphonies of Tchaikovsky after their critically acclaimed release of the 5th several years ago. Now the 4th and 6th have been released, and here I would like to comment on the 4th. It is a good performance, but not groundbreaking in my opinion. It is certainly a safe performance and if you are a fan of Gergiev you will be pleased. I found the first movement a bit sluggish (compare to Szell's fine LSO version on Decca), and although it does pick up steam I thought it was a little too late. Then again, significant tempo changes in Tchaikovsky are not uncommon and no doubt Gergiev is trying to build the tension. I found the recording balance to be a little less convincing that with the 5th, but overall good. The other movements are played well, and certainly the drama builds toward a crashing conclusion. Perhaps not a first choice (I am fond of the Szell version, as well as Karajan's second recording on DG, and Abbado's Vienna version also DG), but a safe choice."
A Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony of Great Clarity and Emotion f
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 07/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2002 recording of the Tchaikovsky 4th Symphony is one of great clarity and emotion from distinguished maestro Valery Gergiev and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Indeed, it merely demonstrates why Gergiev demands our attention as one of our most important, most insightful, conductors, leading the world's greatest orchestra in a riveting interpretation that is noteworthy for its clarity and emotional depth. Gergiev's interpretation is one that is replete with precise intonation, as well as empathy, for Tchaikovsky's score; it is one that does not wallow in excessive emotional displays, as for example, Leonard Bernstein's final recording of this work with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon in the late 1980s. For a live recording, the sound quality most closely resembles that of a studio performance, and judging from the fact that this was recorded over the span of four days in mid October 2002, one has to presume that both Gergiev and the Philips producers opted for some "corrections" in what is otherwise, a recording derived from live performances at the Wiener Philharmoniker's sonically memorable home, the Grosser Saal of Vienna's Musikverein. Gergiev's conception of this work as a piece emphasizing the role of Fate is notable for its relentless energy, drive, and emotional richness, courtesy of the Wiener Philharmoniker's virtuoso playing, especially from its principal musicians in solo passages. If merely to emphasize these points, Gergiev has opted for brisker tempi, with the third movement - consisting solely of pizzicato playing by the string section - among the fastest I've heard. Without question, I have to recommend this glowing interpretation as, quite possibly, the best I have heard either on a recording or live (I can gladly mention too that it is one I have heard live, thanks to Gergiev's rousing performance of it with the Wiener Philharmoniker earlier this year at Carnegie Hall; his conception of this work hasn't changed at all.).