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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Tchaikovsky / Igor Markevitch, London Symphony Orchestra ‎– Manfred

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Today's Cover 2 Cover post continues along the beaten path of the many Tchaikovsky shares we've made here and on our Friday Blog and Podcast throughout 2018.

According to the Gramophone review of his mid-1960's recordings of the Tchaikovsky symphonies,

[Igor Markevitch's] passionate Russian temperament on the podium and the LSO in one of its heydays (the 1960s) are good enough reasons for investigating this set. Another is the chance to hear Tchaikovsky's brass with minimum inhibition, and reproduced with the sort of clarity, immediacy and range that suggest more modern origins; trombones in particular, have a full and true presence. [...]

In sum, there are very few stereo versions of these famous three to match Mravinsky for range of expression, and none that I have heard to match his microscopic attention to, and control of detail. If Markevitch's set is less of a gramophone classic, it is half the price, almost as vital and powerfully communicative, has brass that doesn't wobble, and is marginally more naturally recorded.
Tchaikovsky's Manfred is a symphony in four scenes after Byron's Manfred: A Dramatic Poem (1817), composed and orchestrated between May and September 1885. The symphony was performed for the first time on 11/23 March 1886 in Moscow, at the eleventh symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society (dedicated to the memory of Nikolay Rubinstein), conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer.

There are four movements, each of which is prefaced in the score with its own programme:

I. Lento lugubre. Manfred wanders in the Alps. Wearied by the fatal questions of existence, tormented by hopeless longings and the memory of past crimes, he suffers terrible spiritual yearnings. He has delved into the occult sciences and commands the mighty powers of darkness, but neither they nor anything in this world can give him the forgetfulness to which alone he vainly aspires. The memory of the lost Astarte, once passionately loved by him, gnaws at his heart, and there is neither limit nor end to Manfred's despair.
II. Vivace con spirito. The Alpine Fairy appears to Manfred beneath the rainbow of a waterfall.
III. Andante con moto. Pastorale. A picture of the simple, free and peaceful life of the mountain folk.
IV. Allegro con fuoco. The subterranean palace of Arimanes. An infernal orgy. Appearance of Manfred in the midst of a bacchanal. Evocation and appearance of the spirit of Astarte, who pardons him. Death of Manfred.

Today's Manfred is a recording contemporaneous to that six symphony set, and gets full marks in conveying the many moods sought by the composer.

Happy Listening!

Pyotr Il′yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Manfred, op. 58 [TH 28]
Symphony After Byron In B Minor

London Symphony Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conducting

Studio Recording, 1964
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