SPC-4033 Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
Released on 1958
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
SPC-4033 cover
[high resolution scan]

A patchwork of profundity, purportedly programmatic, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony is generally regarded as his first “great” symphony for the excellence of its parts and intricacies and in spite of its structural weaknesses as a cohesive whole. Sir Thomas Beecham, shortly before shuffling off this mortal and odious coil, conducted a version with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for posterity, though posterity esteemed the gift none too greatly and today few talk of Beecham’s Fourth in the same warm tones accorded Bernstein, Karajan and Maazel. A defense of Beecham’s baton will have to come from other quarters, since the copy I own (a low-budget stereo reissue of the original mono recording) is virtually unlistenable in spots. So much for vinyl as the superior medium (fortunately, EMI Classics released this performance on CD in 2007). Despite the sonic limitations of the Pickwick disc, it’s clear that the Fourth is a work well worth delving into, from the opulent opening Andante--which finds refuge from relentless Fate in a beguiling dreamworld--to the triumphant (if occasionally nightmarish) Finale. In between these bookends, Tchaikovsky inserts a sublime second movement (led by a liberated oboe) and a standalone Scherzo-Allegro rich in reveries. Few composers felt the cruel, oppressive weight of Fate as heavily as Tchaikovsky, just as few created such prettily rendered Elysiums in which to hide. He begins the Fourth by unleashing the demons that dog him, only to confound his hunters by dodging into the pleasant past and, ultimately, the pleasure of others. The Fourth remains a remarkably ambitious work with many impressive passages, though the Fifth and Sixth are slightly superior in sound and substance. At the moment, however, I can only mark this merely average because of the luster lost in fifty years of dust and detritus.

TRACK LISTING

  1. First Movement: ANDANTE SOSTENUTO - MODERATO CON ANIMA (IN MOVIMENTO DI VALSE)
  2. Second Movement: ANDANTE IN MODO DI CANZONA
  3. Third Movement: SCHERZO (PIZZICATO OSTINATO) - ALLEGRO
  4. Fourth Movement: FINALE (ALLEGRO CON FUOCO)

CREDITS

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra --
Sir Thomas Beecha, Bart, C.H. -- conductor
Jackson Weller Paine -- photography and cover design
Malcolm Rayment -- liner notes

return to P.I. TCHAIKOVSKY discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US 1958 Capitol LP G-7139  
US December 1966 Pickwick LPm/LPs PC/SPC-4033 avail. in mono/stereo versions
  March 6, 2007 EMI Classics CDX   repackaged w. Nutcracker Suite
+ Waltz from Eugene Onegin

 

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