Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36
Night on the Bare Mountain [Sorochinsky Fair version]
The Love for Three Oranges – Suite
David Wilson-Johnson (baritone)
BBC Singers & BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Tchaikovsky recorded 1 June 1979 in Leeds Town Hall; Mussorgsky on 27 July 1981 in Royal Albert Hall, London; and Prokofiev on 31 May 1981 in Kurashiki City Auditorium, Kurashiki, Japan
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2011
CD No: ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5035
Duration: 69 minutes
The opening of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony is immediately arresting as the brass pummels out a fateful summons. The strings respond in soulful terms, and when the music becomes animated we are thrown into the midst of emotional turmoil, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky the alchemist of an inspired performance that graced the Leeds Festival in 1979. Tchaikovsky’s great score, its accents hammered out, it balletic motions subtly turned, is here given a fervent on-the-wing account that compels attention. The BBC Symphony Orchestra responds to its then Chief Conductor with focussed and expressive resources, audibly hanging onto Rozhdestvensky’s capricious baton in the measured but tensile first movement, its passionate peaks charted with symphonic surety.
Trumpets might scorch the ears at times but there is an echt-Russian quality here. In particular what comes across is how personal all this music is; yes, the first movement has its elegant curves and the slow movement its song aspects, but Rozhdestvensky never trivialises anything, leaving in no doubt as to Tchaikovsky’s deep eloquence throughout. Even the pizzicato scherzo has gravity, the wind and brass trio paraded with a certain amount of acidity. There’s a long gap before the finale crashes in – some judicious editing might have been effected here – but when it does arrive there is a rampant festive quality to the music-making, if on the rowdy side it must be said, a composer pumped up and ‘on release’, but it’s all in keeping with what has gone before and the coda is exhilarating.
From the Proms, and in another barn-like acoustic, is Mussorgsky’s choral version of Night on the Bare Mountain, from an unfinished opera, the choruses just a little inhibited in their wild interjections, but David Wilson-Johnson is a powerful presence and Rozhdestvensky whips up quite a storm across the whole. From Japan, the machinations of Prokofiev are brought vividly to surreal life – the famous ‘March’ has point and purpose, the love music for the Prince and the Princess glows, and the final ‘La Fuite’ is ferocious.
Sound-wise, all is acceptable, with the Tchaikovsky ‘enjoying’ the occasional analogue-radio crackle (maybe a comfort in today’s clinical digitalising), with the tightest reproduction coming from Kurashiki.