Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 - Järvi

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 - Järvi


Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Symphony No. 3 in D major Op. 29 "Polish"
Entr’acte and Dances of the Chambermaids from the opera "The Voyevoda" Op. 3
Dmitri the Pretender and Vassily Shuisky, incidental music (Introduction to Act I; Mazurka)
Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name Day
Entr’acte & Waltz and Polonaise from "Eugene Onegin" Op. 24

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi (conductor)

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15 of 19 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Mixed recording

Recorded in December 2002 (Eugene Onegin), in August 2004 (The Voyevoda, Serenade, Dmitri the Pretender) and in March 2005 (Symphony No. 3) at the Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden, DSD (Eugene Onegin), 24/44.1 (the rest)

Producer: Lennart Dehn

Sound engineer: Michael Bergek

Recording equipment: Neumann microphones; Crookwood and Millennia microphone amplifers; Meitner DSD interface; Pyramix Audio Workstation HD system; Adam loudspeakers

Post-production: Editing: Tomas Ferngren (Symphony No. 3, The Voyevoda, Dmitri the Pretender); Torbjörn Samuelsson (Serenade, Eugene Onegin)
Mastering: Torbjörn Samuelsson

Executive producers: Robert Suff (BIS), Martin Hansson (Göteborgs Symfoniker)
Reviews (2)

Review by Mark Novak - August 14, 2009

This release completes Jarvi's recent survey of the Tchaikovsky symphonies on Bis. It's a shame that Manfred is not part of the plans as it is one of my favorite Tchaikovsky orchestral works but for whatever reason it is a black sheep that is often neglected in integral cycles. Too bad.

This performance of the 3rd is energetic and fleet which suits the music. Some might say that Maestro Jarvi glosses over some details and opportunites to "make a statement" but I don't hear it that way. I find it to be a satisfying and exciting performance whose 43 minutes passes by quickly. This is one of his better performances in a survey that has more downs than ups in my opinion. One thing is consistent throughout this series and that is the playing of the wonderful Gothenburg Symphony. The filler works are not my cup of tea but for what its worth they seem competantly played though not music that I will return to. I wish Bis would have focused solely on the symphonies and packaged these releases more economically without the fillers. I suspect that we will get a symphonies-only discount package in the future and if so I wish I would have held off on the individual releases until then.

The symphony was recorded in 2005 and it sounds very good as usual for Bis in this venue. The fillers were recorded at even earlier dates and I think they have an even more satisfying sound than the symphony. The massed violins sound a touch more natural and lifelike to me and the brass have a more authentic rasp. I suspect this is because the earlier pieces were DSD native whereas the symphony is the more recent 24 bit/44 Khz Bis hi-rez standard. It could also be due to different microphone placements over the different sessions. Only the Bis recording team (and Bissie himself) knows for sure. I look forward to comments from others on this aspect. In any case, this SACD provides the usual high sonic standard of Bis and if you want an energetic 3rd symphony, by all means check it out.

Copyright © 2009 Mark Novak and


Sonics (Stereo):

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Review by John Miller - August 23, 2009

The title 'Polish' attached to this symphony is entirely spurious. For his Crystal Palace Concerts in 1899, Sir August Manns introduced it to Britain. He billed it as the 'Polish Symphony' purely on the strength of its Finale's marking of 'tempo di polacca'. The programme notes went further, describing a fantasy of "Poland mourning in her oppression and rejoicing in her regeneration". The title unfortunately stuck, but Manns might just as well have called it the German Symphony, for the second movement is designated 'Alla tedesca' (in the style of a German Dance).

Tchaikovsky's exploratory first three symphonies were a means of finding his own version of symphonic style and for perfecting his orchestration techniques. The Third Symphony (1875) in particular is experimental in a number of ways; it has 5 movements instead of the usual 4; he used it to try out a number of ideas for his first ballet, which had just been commissioned from him; its Scherzo is in 2/4 time (being derived from the minuet, scherzos were normally in 3/4), and it is his only symphony in a major key.

Neeme Järvi's intent with his Gothenburg symphony cycle, which is completed with this Third, is to sweep away much of the romantic excess which has encrusted the Tchaikovsky symphonies during their long performance history. The symphonies have an instant popular appeal and the last three have become icons of lush, highly-charged and emotional Late Romantic music. Järvi accomplishes his refurbishment by fidelity to the score, particularly in employing Tchaikovsky's carefully marked dynamics, and often by adopting swifter tempi, counteracting the well-known slowing down of performances in the C20th. He is substantially faster than Karajan and the BPO except for the Andante elegiaco and the Scherzo, where Karajan is faster by a few seconds. Järvi's speeds are notably slower than Janssons' with the Oslo Philharmonic in the first movement, but within a few seconds for the other movements.

Rather than rushing, then, Järvi's sleek tempi clarify the structure within each movement, and help to overcome a potential weakness in Tchaikovsky's compositions, an example of which is found in the development section of the Third Symphony's first movement. Here, the composer writes many repetitive sequences which modulate (change key), and are also crescendos which reset each time. The music may never seem to get anywhere, reminding one of Escher's trick drawing of a stairway in perspective. By carefully shading the dynamics, however, Järvi cleverly creates the illusion of progress and attains the required build up of dramatic tension, whereas Janssons is more prosaic and a little laboured. Incidentally, in this movement one can easily recognise many anticipations of the March from the 6th Symphony as well as sections from Swan Lake, particularly in the composer's already very distinctive woodwind writing. The immaculate and bright-eyed playing of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra here and elsewhere clarifies the movement's rich textures; the player's attack is incisive and they have a deep bass department which provides a fine foundation for Järvi's strong rhythmic thrust.

Järvi's limping, offbeat Alla tedesca second movement is a ghost of a waltz, inciting lovely interplay from flutes and clarinets, with throaty cellos and fluttering wind choruses of Mendelssohnian lightness. This is a movement full of charm, achieved by the conductor's scrupulous observation of its quiet dynamics, where Jansson's woodwinds are louder and coarser. Järvi also adds a subtle touch of whimsy at the throw-away end of the movement, quite ear-tickling.

The third movement is a very unusual Andante elegaico, softly-spoken and demure, opening with flutes and bassoons and featuring several eloquent bassoon solos; it ends with a remarkable coda, featuring softly shuddering tremolo strings and lonely bassoon/horn calls. Janssons take over a minute longer over this movement, and nearly becomes becalmed in the process. The eccentric Scherzo in 2/4 time is magical in Järvi's hands. He takes us into a gentle rural scene, strings muted throughout, with whirring, bubbling woodwinds, interrupted from time to time by stark bird cries. Its trio (over a long horn pedal note which is craftily passed from desk to desk without a break) is the essence of ballet, and leads back to the whirring scherzo. A fresh, highly original movement and a masterpiece of orchestration, magically conjured by the Gothenburgers, in perhaps the finest rendition I have heard.

Tchaikovsky's high-energy finale, marked Allegro con fuoco, tempo di Polacca, is a challenge for both conductor and orchestra. The rhythms have to be strong but not stolid, and there are many incidental climaxes to negotiate but only one summit, for which Järvi unerringly aims. His brisk tempo also propels the movement irresistibly on to the return of The Big Tune which arrives triple forte in the full splendour of a grand ballet's Apotheosis for a thrilling conclusion.

This issue's set of generous and interesting excerpts from opera and stage, plus the touching miniature Serenade for Rubenstein's Name Day, adds interesting depth to our knowledge of Tchaikovsky's working life. I was particularly taken with the waltz and polonaise from Eugene Onegin, glittering with all the glamour and style of a great Imperial Ball. Splendid sound here, as provided for the rest of the music on this disc, despite the recording dates over several years. BIS engineers are almost as familiar with the excellent acoustics of the Gothenburg Symphony Hall as are Järvi and the orchestra. This is a natural, immediate, detailed and focussed sound which allows Tchaikovsky's luminous orchestral writing to make its full impact with a very impressive dynamic range.

A desirable Third Symphony (if not really Polish!) with the best sound so far and providing many revelations from Maestro Järvi.

Copyright © 2009 John Miller and


Sonics (Stereo):

Sonics (Multichannel):

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