PLP-162 Symphony No.1 in G Minor, Op. 13 ("Winter Dreams")
Prague Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Vaclav Smetacek
Released on 1962
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
PLP-162 cover
[high resolution scan]

T his will not be a profound critique of Tchaikovsky’s first symphony, since I lack both the technical and historical insight to make a fair job of it. Instead, as I begin to add some of my classical collection to this Progrography, my goal is to track down release dates and discographical info, get a nice album cover scan on the Internet and say a few things about the music without making a complete idiot out of myself. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 is universally regarded as the weakest (structurally speaking) of his symphonies, so no harm done if I do a ham-handed review of this, I suppose. It starts with a warm, luminous note as if a star sustained in a black winter sky, then wheels larklike into a lilting melody. Entitled “Winter Reveries,” the first movement is light at first, then grows increasingly dark as Tchaikovsky seeks to encompass the whole spectrum of light and dark in a dramatic opening movement. The Adagio, entitled “Desolate Country, Country of Mists,” opens with a Russian folk melody and has the happy cadence of a dance before yielding to sadness. The Scherzo features the fantastical haunts that would reappear in later works like The Nutcracker Suite but lacks inspiration in the arrangement, the Finale wraps it all up with a predictably bombastic bow. While it’s an ultimately uneven work, the Symphony No. 1 does introduce Tchaikovsky’s unique facility for melody and the opening minutes are ingenious. The Prague Symphony Orchestra and their longtime conductor, Vaclav Smetacek, approach the work with gusto (a word I have actually never used before in a review, and I can see where these classical albums are going to be problematic), although I haven’t heard another version of the First, so it may actually be less gustorious than other versions, I don’t know. Much has been made of Tchaikovsky’s descent into near madness during the creation of this Symphony, but I don’t hear the elements of madness so much as the mundane, which I’m sure would be maddening to a composer of his intellect and ability. In 2006, Supraphon reissued this performance on CD with the Overture from Romeo and Juliet.

TRACK LISTING

  1. ALLEGRO TRANQUILO
  2. ADAGIO CANTABILE MA NON TANTO
  3. SCHERZO (ALLEGRO)
  4. FINALE (ANDANTE LUGUBRE)

CREDITS

PRAGUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA --
VACLAV SMETACEK -- conductor
Herbert Glass -- liner notes

return to P.I. TCHAIKOVSKY discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
CZE 1962 Supraphon LP SUA-10406  
UK 1962 Supraphon LP SUA ST 50033  
US 1962 Parliament LP PLP-162 unique cover
US 2006 Supraphon CDX SU 3895-2 repackaged w. "Overture" from Romeo & Juliet

 

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