Manfred-Sinfonie Op.58,Slawischer Marsch Op.31
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The 'Manfred' Symphony in B minor, composed between Tchaikovsky's Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, has all too often been overlooked. The latter two symphonies, and the Sixth, have already been released in award-winning recordings from the CBSO under Music Director Andris Nelsons. 'Manfred', after Lord Byron s dramatic poem of the same name, now enriches this Tchaikovsky cycle through a number of remarkable facets. As suggested by the critic Vladimir Stasov, Tchaikovsky's programmatic late-romantic, agitated series of orchestral scenes depicts Manfred's lonely mountain peregrinations, complete with magical apparitions, an idyllic submersion in nature plus a bacchanal from the nether world. The listener is gripped by the enormous strength of the CBSO string section while the woodwind and brass sections almost steal the show, particularly in the vision of the Alpine fairy and the tempestuous sweep of the bacchanal. Tchaikovsky s much shorter 'Marche Slave' includes not only musical references to Serbian folk songs but also the Russian National Anthem, 'God Save the Tsar', which caused considerable problems for Russian censors during much of the 20th century. Whether on the concert or operatic podium, conductor Andris Nelsons remains a master when it comes to the heightening of dramatic intensity. Here, with the CBSO once again on superb form, this march assumes a timeless historic stature.
'This new concert recording from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons manages to make sense of Manfred s last moments and Tchaikovsky s finale ... a colourful, dramatically impassioned account from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra that makes more sense than most, and the sound of the organ towards the end is a spectacular success. This is a Manfred to which I ll be happy to return, and that doesn t happen all that often' --Andrew McGregor BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 4th April 2015
Performance: ***** Recording: ***** 'Every detail of Tchaikovsky s intricate and inventive score is captured in this live recording made in Symphony Hall s superb acoustic, with the CBSO players at the top of their game. This is more importantly, a fine performance which encompasses the work s Wagnerian-style doom of the opening, realises the tenderness of the string theme portraying Manfred s beloved Astarte, the playful evanescence of the waterfall evoking scherzo, and does full justice to the initially serene third movement pastoral ... Nelsons conducts the finale with such conviction that its disparate ideas come across as as powerful, magnificent fragments ... Superb.' --Daniel Jaffe - BBC Music Magazine, June 2015
'this latest helping of Tchaikovsky from Andris Nelsons and the CBSO certainly packs a punch ... he takes an imposingly spacious view of Tchaikovsky s tempestuous symphonic portrait, but such is his no-holds-barred conviction, sparky temperament and exhilarating mastery of line and texture that the 58 minutes fairly fly by ... Nelson s broodingly passionate and imaginatively conceived reading remains a must-hear by any standards ... producer Tim Oldham has preserved the combustible charge of what was clearly quite an event.' --Andrew Achenbach Gramophone, June 2015
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This only falls short of greatness in one or two main respects. Nelsons simply doesn't bring the drama to an effective close, as happens in both the Toscanini (mono) and Rostopovich (stereo) recordings. Those conductors achieve a real sense of pathos and catharsis at the end of the final movement, whereas most other conductors in the stereo era, including Nelsons, simply trudge rather dutifully through with not much of a sense of musical resolution at all. This is the difference between good and great I guess--the ability to see the long line and the grand, overarching structure, and to get the orchestra to realize it sonically through shaping and molding phrases.