A sterling concert version of the Tchaikovsky Fifth
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Tchaikovsky Fifth is a high point in Audite's Ferenc Fricsay Edition. It dates from 1957, in concert, by which time Fricsay had turned the RIAS orchestra into a fine ensemble. DG has released a historic Tchaikovsky Fourth from this period that stopped me in my tracks when I heard it in Tower Records one day, and this Fifth, also pre-stereo, deserves to stand beside it.
Fricsay takes a strongly personal view of the symphony, offering startling changes from very slow to very fast, with long reflective phrases suddenly exploding into busts of activity, the two sides often closely juxtaposed. His aim, I think, was to give more dramatic depth and fire to Tchaikovsky's repetitious first movement. He certainly succeeds -- this is a spontaneous, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Andante Cantabile is just as spontaneous, which makes up for a less than sterling French horn solo; the pace is fairly quick, not the creeping adagio we often get in the name of sensitivity. The third movement waltz has a fetching lilt, with nicely characterized wind playing. Fricsay gets the finale off to a bracing start with no dawdling or pomposity. The second theme is slow to the point of somberness, which serves as a telling contrast to the propulsive final pages. In all, an outstanding reading in good radio broadcast mono that erases any sense that the Tchaikovsky Fifth is a warhorse.
I had read a scathing review of the Schumann concerto, made when Cortot was 73 in 1951. The great French pianist never had the most reliable technique, and he made many appearances when he was past his prime. Sadly, this is a bad performance with Cortot sounding impaired even at Fricsay's very cautious tempos. Audite made a mistake to release it."