Sunday, August 18, 2013

This Tchaikovsky is the cat's whiskers


Pierre Boulez once famously declared:"I hate Tchaikovsky and I will not conduct him... but if the audience wants him, it can have him". Much that I admire Boulez I can think of many good reasons not to hate Tchaikovsky, among them his Third Orchestral Suite. Given the enduring popularity of Tchaikovsky's symphonies it is surprising that the four movement Suite is not better known, because it was originally conceived as a symphony and was composed between two of his most popular symphonies, the Fourth and Fifth. The photo above shows the overgrown feline standing guard over my 1975 EMI LP of the Suite No 3. On this disc Sir Adrian Boult conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the violin solo in the final movement is played by Rodney Friend who went on to lead the BBC Symphony Orchestra. If my memory serves me correctly Sir Adrian made the recording at the suggestion of EMI's Douglas Pudney who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire and a wonderful nose for neglected gems.

I wrote recently of a forthcoming box of Sir Adrian's EMI recordings and the good news is that it includes this unmissable account of Tchaikovsky's neglected gem. Also in the 10 CD Boult box are no less than three recordings of Holst's Planets. These date from 1937, 1966 and 1978, and were produced by Lawrance Collingwood, Peter Andry and Christopher Bishop respectively. Not only does this brave piece of CD programming allow us to hear how Sir Adrian's view of Holst's warhorse changed over the years, but it also showcases the work of three great recording producers, two of who I had the privilege of working with at EMI. Moreover there is a link to another recent post as the remastering of the 1937 Planets makes available again a classic of mono sound, as does another highlight of the box, Sir Adrian's 1956 recording of Robert Simpson's First Symphony.

EMI's path from financial meltdown via Universal Music to Warner Classics has been the subject of much cynicism, both here and elsewhere. Views will differ as to whether this meta content rich retrospective of a seriously underrated conductor is being released because of, or despite, the Warner acquisition. But does that really matter? In the final analysis we should just be thankful that there are still people left in the industry who realise that there is more to classical music than kick arse tweets.

Confession time, a freebie was used in the preparation of this post: the overgrown feline is an adopted stray. And I swear I had no intention of including him in the photo, he simply came and sat there, presumably to show his whiskers are better than Sir Adrian's. Photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2103. Also on Facebook and Twitter.

3 comments:

Peter Young said...

The set has his last recording of the Planets from 1978 (not 1973, that's the Howells on the same disc). I must admit the discs of lighter music look really fascinating!

Pliable said...

Thanks Peter, my error is now corrected.

davidderrick said...

Entirely agree about the Boult recording of the third suite. He made an earlier one with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra that is just as good, if not better.

The Tchaikovsky suites are invisible, the dark side of his moon. The first movement of the 2nd is called Jeu des sons: amazing name, looking sideways to Liszt and forward to Ravel.