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Thread: Favorite recordings of the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

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    Default Favorite recordings of the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

    What recordings of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings do you prefer, or gravitate to listening to most often?

    My top pick has always been the 1966 von Karajan BPO on DG. He did a fine remake in better digital sound later, but I still prefer the overall energy, passion, and momentum of the 1966 recording more. But I also got imprinted on the Serenade with the 1966 recordings, so I am biased.

    Bernstein/NYPO on Sony gets an occasional nod from me.

    How many times did Marriner record the Serenade? I am sure he at least made separate recordings for Decca and Philips - could there have been an Argo version too? Anyone know them and and have a preference for one? For some reason I've always thought he would excel with this work, but somehow I have never acquired one.

    Ormandy's Philadelphia disappoints me, which is really sad considering the great sounding Philly strings.

    Mengleberg of course is unforgettable.

    Sadly George Szell never recorded the Serenade.

    Are there any Russian recordings I should consider? Anyone feel my favorite interpreter, von Karajan, too European/Teutonic in comparison to some Russian interpreters

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rmathuln View Post
    What recordings of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings do you prefer, or gravitate to listening to most often?

    My top pick has always been the 1966 von Karajan BPO on DG. He did a fine remake in better digital sound later, but I still prefer the overall energy, passion, and momentum of the 1966 recording more. But I also got imprinted on the Serenade with the 1966 recordings, so I am biased.

    Bernstein/NYPO on Sony gets an occasional nod from me.

    How many times did Marriner record the Serenade? I am sure he at least made separate recordings for Decca and Philips - could there have been an Argo version too? Anyone know them and and have a preference for one? For some reason I've always thought he would excel with this work, but somehow I have never acquired one.

    Ormandy's Philadelphia disappoints me, which is really sad considering the great sounding Philly strings.

    Mengleberg of course is unforgettable.

    Sadly George Szell never recorded the Serenade.

    Are there any Russian recordings I should consider? Anyone feel my favorite interpreter, von Karajan, too European/Teutonic in comparison to some Russian interpreters
    I have Marriner on Philips paired with the Nutcracker Suite. I enjoy it, but I've never owned another version. This is my favorite way to listen to Serenade for Strings - live of course. The video is from the mid 70s.



    Edit - DrMike reminds me that I have the Dorati as well. Haven't listened to it in some time.
    Last edited by jegreenwood; Sep-17-2018 at 11:23.

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    I have Karajan's 2nd digital recording on DG, & find it velvety lush & overly string heavy (which tends to obscure Tchaikovsky's full score and the music loses a sense of nimbleness, which especially important in the waltz movement). It sounds like Karajan used the entire string section of the Berlin Philharmonic, while most orchestras opt for some form of a reduced chamber orchestra. Hence, I prefer the following recordings:

    From the digital era, Paavo Berglund's version with the New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra on the BIS label is excellent (& note how much more 'waltz-like' Berglund's 2nd movement sounds than Karajan's):

    https://www.amazon.com/Serenade-Stri.../dp/B0000016AN
    https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/cl...ring-serenades
    http://bis.se/conductors/berglund-pa...ring-serenades

    I also like Sir Colin Davis' account with the Bavarian Radio S.O. on Philips:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjeN...vEvdLs14QWUmBM
    https://www.amazon.com/Tchaikovsky-S.../dp/B075ZYCC36
    http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/13...id_Stereo_SACD

    Historically speaking, Sir Neville Marriner & the ASMF's old 1968 Argo recording is one of the better accounts I've heard (it was later re-released by Decca):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqi6...&frags=pl%2Cwn
    https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/cl...-holberg-suite

    along with Antal Dorati's excellent 1958 account with the Philharmonia Hungarica Orchestra for Mercury records: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp0R...&frags=pl%2Cwn

    and Evgeny Mravinsky's 1947 recording with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, which is arguably the most idiomatic of the lot, as Mravinsky was one of the great conductors of the Russian repertory (Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, etc.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJZ_VF5Wylw

    As for other Russian accounts that offer better sound (than Mravinsky's), Yuri Bashmet digitally recorded the Serenade twice--the first time for RCA in 1989, and secondly for Onyx in the 2000s, with the Moscow Soloists. Both accounts are excellent (if somewhat more 'heart on sleeve' than Berglund's account):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg1t...&frags=pl%2Cwn
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxu7...&frags=pl%2Cwn

    Finally, in answer to your question, there were two recordings of the Serenade from Sir Neville Marriner--the first for Argo in 1968 (later reissued by Decca in 1976), and a 2nd digital recording for Philips, also with the ASMF. I haven't heard the 2nd recording myself (though I usually like Marriner's recordings from his Philips years, so it might be worth investigating): https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/cl...de-for-strings. To my knowledge, Marriner didn't record the Serenade again (during his tenures in Stuttgart, Dresden, or Minnesota).

    Igor Markevitch, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and Bernard Haitink are three of my favorite Tchaikovsky conductors (in addition to Mravinsky), yet I don't recall that any of them recorded the Serenade (though I'm not absolutely certain of this). (It might also be worth looking into the Tchaikovsky recordings of Maris Jansons, Mikhail Pletnev, Riccardo Muti, & Yuri Temirkanov too, but again, I don't recall that they've recorded the Serenade.)

    My two cents.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Sep-17-2018 at 02:43.

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    I have two recordings, fairly different, but love both.

    Munch with the Boston Symphony
    Dorati with Philharmonia Hungarica, paired with the Nutcracker (my favorite recording of the Nutcracker) on Mercury

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    I had a recording of Charles Munch leading the Boston SO on a budget lp in the seventies that I played until My lp collection was trashed in a flood in the mid eighties. When I finally got around to buying a CD version it wasn’t available but I discovered that unlike most other pieces of Music, this one seems to play itself—I’ve never heard a recording or performance that I haven’t enjoyed

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    I have quite a few of the 'big' recordings of this Marriner, Karajan, etc but i was particularly impressed with Bashmet's vision of the Serenade. Lovely disc.

    880040403722.jpg

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    Most of my Serenade for Strings listening time is taken up by Steinberg/Pittsburgh SO [Capitol ’53]. Steinberg directs a straightforward but savvy performance, guiding the proceedings with a firm but responsive hand and maintaining an uncommonly high level of inner tension and intensity throughout. Everything is well balanced and proportioned, nothing is unduly enhanced or highlighted or in any way prettified, and phrasing is a model of unfussy eloquence. All in all, this is as focused and concentrated an account of the Serenade as I’ve heard, one with an admirable sense of integrity and flowing continuity; that said, it’s not the most lilting/balletic account to be had, and not everyone will appreciate its unvarnished finish and earnest mien.

    The Pittsburgh strings produce a sinewy, somewhat distressed tone (although the high violins “glisten” nicely enough) and weave a tightly woven, fibrous texture that’s full but not plush or homogenized—they aren’t as rich and glamorous-sounding as the strings of most big-name full orchestras or as nimble and transparent as the strings of most big-name chamber orchestras, but they stake out an excellent middle ground between the two and are ideally suited to Steinberg’s conception of the Serenade.

    Steinberg’s approach works extremely well in the first movement, with the Andante sections having a slightly ecstatic, quasi-religious atmosphere and the Allegro sections having a compelling rigor and vigor. The Waltz movement is more foursquare & direct than lilting & graceful, and it’s a bit short on patience and charm. The Elegy is all the more affecting for the lack of indulgence and all the more cohesive for the extra measure of inner tension, and the strings’ distressed character is perfect for the movement, sounding subtly plaintive in context. The final movement is vigorous and well driven if not ideally forceful/trenchant, with a nicely judged buildup and segue to the closing restatement of the work’s opening—one of Tchaikovsky’s niftier inspirations, I think.

    My favorite alternative recording is Karajan/BPO [DG ’66]—not the same team’s tired and heavy early ’80s digital remake. The first movement (and its restatement at work’s end) presses on a degree too quickly and ardently for my taste and lacks the earnestness and gravity that Steinberg and company bring to it, but the rest is very much to my taste, especially the Waltz and the Elegy movements. Indeed, for quality of execution and quality and refined richness of sound, the BPO hasn’t been matched in my Serenade for Strings listening experience. What the Karajan/BPO and Steinberg/PSO accounts have in common is great focus & concentration and a high level of inner tension—these are not relaxed (low in tension) performances, either one. Many listeners prefer a fairly relaxed approach to this work (which I can understand, it being a serenade and all), and there are a good many excellent recordings for them to choose from, but I need my tension.

    On the rare occasion when I’m in the mood for or can tolerate a little bit less tension, Leppard/ECO [Philips ’75] fills the bill nicely. In fact, it strikes me as the most well-rounded and generally recommendable account of the Serenade to be had … middle-of-the-road in the best sense. If you like Marriner/ASMF [Argo ’68] quite a lot but find it a bit fussy and short on panache, then Leppard/ECO is definitely a good bet—and the coupled account of the Dvorak Serenade for Strings by the same team is superb.

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