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Dip Your Ears, No. 156 (Gergiev's Early Tchaikovsky Symphonies)

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P.Tchaikovsky, Symphonies 1, 2, 3,
V.Gergiev / LSO
LSO Live 0710

Satisfying, Unsentimental

The LSO’s release of Tchaikovsky’s first three Symphonies—adding to Daniele Gatti’s Symphonies Four to Six with the Royal Philharmonic—means that the most satisfying 21st century Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle might now be an all-London affair. Despite the catchy nicknames “Winter Daydreams”, “Little Russian”, and “Polish”, these inventive, vigorous symphonies haven’t caught on like their three saccharine successors. This set won’t challenge the Pathetique dominance, but it should make new converts. Instead of wading through sentimentalism, Gergiev puts on his riding boots—mud-crusted in the Third—which balances the energetically crude with the extant daintiness. The live recordings, two from the Barbican, one from Zurich’s Tonhalle, could be crisper (the new PentaTone recordings with Pletnev offer more on that count) but pack a real sonic punch if listened to very loud.

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