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Thread: Tchaikovsky's symphonies: ranking, recordings and stuff

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    Default Tchaikovsky's symphonies: ranking, recordings and stuff

    I'm on Tchaikovsky kick recently so I'm starting a thread to provoke some discussion.

    How do you rank his symphonies, what do you think about them in general, what recordings are your favourites?

    I think that he suffers a lot from "nice" image of his music based on easy-listening ballet suites. But his after-3rd symphonies are much more modern and challenging that one would expect. They reach almost Mahler-like brutality of expression, yet always remain beautiful.

    My ranking would look something like that:

    1. 6th - a great, lenghty masterpiece of late romanticism with last movement being one of most stunning pieces of music of all times
    2. 5th - just a little bit inferior to the 6th mainly because of it's final movement which some would call cheap and bombastic. The rest is incredible and everyone should hear the opening of slow movement with solo horn.
    3. 3rd - rather underrated piece with unusual structure, first movement has a lot of smart counterpoint, the two shorter movements reveal great sense of colouristics, especially the scherzo with magical trombone part. Then the stunning finale with energetic polonaise and unforgetable chorale.
    4. 4th - some weird ideas in this symphony, in first and last movements and of course in the scherzo with this pizzicato messing-around. The slow movement has something special about it and the ending, well, it's one of wildest codas in symphonic genre. CLASH CLASH BUM TRA TA TA TA DAM.
    5. 1st and 2nd. Simply very good symphonies with no great revelations.

    So far my number one is:



    Except for the 6th which is played way too fast. In this one I prefer Bernstein/NY.

    The Karajan box also includes other works in first rate interpretation, especially the concertos and string serenade.

    And now the stuff:


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    My own ranking would be as follows:

    Manfred
    6th
    4th
    5th
    3rd
    2nd & 1st

    People may know by now that I'm just as much a Manfred fanatic as I am Brahms zealot, so it's no surprise I put it at the top, and my favourite recording is, of course, Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.



    The 6th is a very close second place for me. I still consider it one of the greatest symphonies ever written, and simply can't get enough of it. I put the 4th before the 5th mainly because I am utterly in love with its first movement - the sheer dramatism, and seemingly never-ending return of complete despair is precisely to my tastes!

    I don't yet have favourite recordings of most of the other symphonies, but for the 4th I think the best is probably Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and the LSO.
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    I've heard the Manfred Symphony, but I cannot recall it.

    My favorite list:
    6
    4
    3 - I'm glad you like this one too, Aramis! I love the scherzo.
    5
    2
    1

    I cannot offer any recording suggestions, because I actually don't own a single symphony. Radio has been good enough exposure, I've heard all 6 there.
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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Link to my blog entry on this.

    Ranking:
    6
    manfred
    5
    4
    2
    3
    1
    Und Morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen.....

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    On the list in my sig, the forum ranked the symphonies thus:

    6
    5
    4
    Manfred
    3

    The other two didnt place. Do you agree with this ranking. Why and why not?
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    I'm not too familiar with Manfred so I'll leave it out.
    6
    4
    5
    3
    1
    2

    I had trouble deciding whether to put 4 or 5 in the second place, but I went with this because I enjoy the entirety of No. 4, while there are parts of the 1st and 4th movements of No. 5 that I enjoy less than the inner movements. Of course No. 6 had to come first, almost entirely because of its last movement. I love how the loud, fast 3rd movement leads directly into the melancholic finale that just kind of fades out at the end. No. 3 came before the first two for reasons mentioned above, and No. 1 beat No. 2 simply because of the wonderful melodies in the 1st movement.

    I have the Mehta+LAPO cycle, but it's not nearly Russian enough. I wish I had a very Russian set, and for this I'm considering Temirkanov and Rozhdestvensky. Any suggestions for the most Russian cycle?
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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    IMO Tchaikovsky was capable of great symphonic orchestration. Not particularly for application of small choirs, like Mahler or R. Strauss, whose music can sound 'gimmicky' if you haven't been paying attention, but rather for solo/duo parts contrasted with large/multiple choirs, that exude Romantic emotion.

    The finale of the 6th expresses defeat without surrender In the most powerful manner I have heard anywhere in music.

    The 1st is an interesting, pleasant journey; it calms troubled spirits.

    The pizzicato movement in the 4th annoys me greatly.

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    I think Tchaikovsky is a composer I still haven't really got yet. I've listened to his 5th and 6th symphonies a few times recently, and still haven't clicked with them. I think I am starting to see some of the brilliance in the 6th, but I'm listening to the last movement of it right now, and can't say I'm grasping THAT much out of it. There is some tasteful instrumentation and it does sound good, but I don't hear the super powerful musical statement others are professing this piece of music contains ...I've never really clicked with his violin concerto either. The only Tchaikovsky that instantly appeals to me is his 'easy' stuff - the Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake etc. I also quite enjoy his Romeo and Juliet overture.

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    From this box the 4th Symphony.



    From this box the 5th & 6th Symphony.



    From this box 1st, 2nd & 3rd Symphony.



    From this box the Manfred Symphony + the rest.

    My ranking order: 4, 5, 6, 1, Manfred, 2, 3.
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    These Haitink recordings were my introduction to his symphonies. The interpretations are very well but I dislike the sound quality.

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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    These Haitink recordings were my introduction to his symphonies. The interpretations are very well but I dislike the sound quality.
    I beg to differ: very well recorded 'analogue' (= warmer than digital) Concertgebouw acoustics with all instruments clear & in depth on their place. Mravinsky has splitted up first and second violins, so the stereo effect is strong, but the depth of the recording is a bit wanting...

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    I'm actually in hospital at the moment - nothing too serious; they're just starving me of food for three days - but to keep my mind of the discomfort, I've just been listening to Tchaikovsky's 6th, inspired by this thread. More than any other piece of music I know, this symphony transports my simultaneously to thoughts of me past, and thoughts of my future - nothing exciting, just the thought of actually existing in the past and future - and it allows me to completely detach from the present moment. Wonderful.

    Oh, and shame on all you fools who are not familiar with Manfred.
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    I strongly disagree with your ranking of the first symphony Aramis. The first symphony is perhaps the most inspired of them all to me, though it is not structurally as impressive as the later ones. The finale of the first gives me shivers and that's rare in music. I just have a special thing for the first, its much more substantial than the second(which is nice), and much more exciting than the third, and much more inspired than the fifth. The 4th and 6th are more impressive, but the first has a special place for me. The Manfred is just different.
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    Pappano's recording of #4, 5, and 6 is a very good recent recording. The first movement of the 6th is especially effective.
    Attached Images Attached Images
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