|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|
[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.
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||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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