Tchaikovsky Symphonies Nos 1 & 6

A glorious Tchaik 1, but the Pathétique has the whiff of calculation about it

Author: 
Andrew Achenbach

Tchaikovsky Symphonies Nos 1 & 6

  • Symphony No. 1, 'Winter Daydreams'
  • Symphony No. 6, 'Pathétique'

Further proof that Vladimir Jurowski has moulded the London Philharmonic into one of the most poised and articulate bands around. Of the two performances, it’s that of Winter Daydreams which conveys the greater imaginative spark and spontaneity. Jurowski steers a marvellously lithe and clear-sighted course through this youthful canvas, with springy bass-lines, luminous textures and bracing contrapuntal vigour the keynotes (the antiphonally divided first and second fiddles are a boon, as is the LPO’s personable woodwind roster). There’s genuine affection, too, nowhere more evident than in the third movement’s radiant Trio melody which is allowed to blossom fully – gorgeous cantabile tone from the LPO strings – yet with no unwanted loss of momentum. The finale can sometimes outstay its welcome, but not here: chutzpah and intelligence combine to marvellously exhilarating, fluster-free effect (the stately tune in the preface eventually becomes a high-kicking cossack dance), and there’s an adrenalin-fuelled coda to cap what is an exceptionally refreshing display.

Jurowski’s Pathétique, too, has much to commend it, not least a keen sense of architecture, scrupulous observation and total eschewal of histrionics. Everything is exquisitely nuanced, and Jurowski exploits an intrepidly wide range of dynamic, but his tasteful handling of the great second subject only intermittently tugs at the heartstrings. The orchestral playing positively sizzles in the first movement development (which goes off like a rocket) but tends to a steely, excitable slickness towards the end of the Scherzo. The towering finale is strong, thoughtful and full of freshly minted detail but it’s not, in all honesty, terribly moving. Hugely impressive in parts, then, and well worth hearing, but think of it as a bonus: this LPO release merits immediate investigation for the First Symphony alone.

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