Tchaikovsky: Symphony "No. 7", Piano Concerto No. 3 - Zilberstein, Kitajenko
Oehms Classics OC 672
Classical - Orchestral
Tchaikovsky: Symphony "No. 7" in E-flat major (1891/92) - unfinished & reconstructed from sketches 1951-55 by Semjon Bogatyrjow
Piano Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. post. 75
Lilya Zilberstein, piano
Now it is finished: the highly praised, award-winning Tchaikovsky cycle with Dmitri Kitayenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, is complete. The Cologne musicians have picked up some true rarities for the last CD: Symphony in E-flat major (No. 7) and the Piano Concerto No. 3 that arose from the first movement of this symphony, played by Lilya Zilberstein on the present recording.
With this, however, the collaboration between Dmitri Kitayenko and OehmsClassics is by no means over: beginning in Autumn 2014 a complete Rachmaninoff cycle will be issued, initially in separate editions!
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - March 1, 2014
I don’t know how he did it, but Dmitri Kitajenko has added a seventh Tchaikovsky symphony to the catalogue which is worth listening to. Agreed, he has been greatly helped by an exemplary recording by Cybele Studios. But even so.
When this symphony appeared for the first time on record, I was not very impressed. I lost my older 1962 Columbia recording (Ormandy/Philadelphia), but still have the Chandos 1993 recording (Järvi/London Philharmonic) with exactly the same programme: Symphony no. 7 and piano concerto no. 3 (with Geoffry Tozer). And in comparing this one with Kitajenko I now must admit that thanks to the quality of both conductor and orchestra (and the recording engineer, of course) both works are lifted out and above a fair deal of burlesque banality and weaker passages. They seem to have become of age.
In spite of the fact that the symphony lacks the emotional depths of either the 5th or the 6th, or, quite frankly, any of the others’, it still can compete favourably with the symphonic output of, say, Glazunov, Glière or even Borodin.
Tchaikovsky was clearly not happy with this ‘unfinished symphony’ of which he produced a first movement and sketches of the remaining parts; excusing himself that it was only meant to keep himself busy composing. Judging the final reconstituted result, it should be taken into account that the symphony has only recently (in the early 1950-ies) been ‘completed’ by a less gifted Semyon Bogatryryev, preserving nonetheless as much as possible Tchaikovsky’s typical sound and orchestration.
This new recording shows what an eminent ‘Tchaikovskyan’ like Kitajenko can do. He is able to satisfactorily work his way around the weaker and sometimes banal parts, keeping a steady pace in the first movement and inspiring his orchestra into a lovely andante, with long melodic lines; for me the best part of the symphony. The scherzo is attractively played and does convincingly sound ‘in the style of’. The final movement is low on content, but high on impact, which some may find a bit much.
In comparison with the Chandos disk, the difference in sound quality is most striking. But that was to be expected: in those days Brian Couzens did not have the technical facilities we have now. Taking this aside, we must nonetheless conclude that Kitajenko wins the day for interpretation.
The choice to complement the symphony with the third piano concerto is, like Chandos, an obvious one. And Lilya Zilberstein makes the most of it. With her competence and sensitivity she outshines, though only marginally, Geoffry Tozer.
The liner notes explain in detail how the seventh has been concocted out of part orchestrated and sketched elements left abandoned by Tchaikovsky, although he apparently found the first movement good enough to rework it for the third piano concerto soon after having completed the sixth symphony.
I’m not suggesting that it is a must, but if you do want a seventh symphony, if only for completeness sake, than this is the one to have, giving you at the same time an excellent account of the third piano concerto as a bonus.
As this disk concludes Kitajenko’s Tchaikovsky cycle, there are unfortunately no piano concerti 1 and 2 in the offing.
Copyright © 2014 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net
Review by John Miller - March 5, 2014
Maestro Kitajenko joins a very small number of recorded Tchaikovsky symphony cycles which feature the unfortunately named Symphony 7. Following the Fifth symphony, in 1889 the composer projected an ambitious Symphony in E flat, which he began to sketch in 1891 when returning from his American tour. Its all-encompassing theme was "Life"! This project was completed in November 1892, but with afterthought he judged it to have been "composed simply for the lack of something to compose". The first movement of this E flat Symphony was more or less completed and orchestrated, while the rest remained as a collection of sketches and notes. Tchaikovsky's nephew was later told by the composer that he had destroyed the material.
But in fact, he retained the abandoned work and transformed some of it himself. In particular, he re-orchestrated the symphony's first movement (Allegro brilliante) as a concertante work for piano (Allegro de Concert). After Tchaikovsky's death, his piano student Taneyev adapted and orchestrated the projected E flat symphony's second movement and its finale to complete a three movement concerto structure. Taneyev had complained to his teacher that in Tchaikovsky's own reworking of the rejected Symphony in E flat the piano part lacked the virtuosity expected from him after the First Piano Concerto. Because of the many additions to the work by Taneyev, the so-called Third Piano Concerto is rarely performed or recorded, but a much praised exposition of it by Konstatin Scherbakov can be found here (Tchaikovsky: Piano Concertos 1 & 3 - Scherbakov, Yablonsky).
In the early 1950s, Semyon Bogatyrev (Soviet composer and musicologist) spent about four years wrestling to resurrect Tchaikovsky's rejected E flat Symphony from scattered and untidy MSS, which were lovingly reconstructed and meticulously clarified. The Scherzo turned out to have used material from the tenth of Tchaikovsky's Eighteen Piano Pieces Op. 72, which he could reference. Having resolved most of the structural and harmonic problems, Maestro Kitajenko joins a very small number of the many recorded Tchaikovsky symphony cycles which feature the unfortunately named Symphony 7. After Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, in 1889 he projected an ambitious Symphony in E flat, which he began to sketch in 1891 when returning from his American tour. Its theme was "Life"! This was completed in November 1892, but with after thought he judged it to have been "composed simply for the lack of something to compose". The first movement of the E flat Symphony was more or less completed and orchestrated, while the rest remained in a collection of sketches and notes. Tchaikovsky's nephew was told by the composer that he had destroyed the material.
In the early 1950s, Semyon Bogatryryev (Soviet composer and musicologist) spent about four years wrestling with Tchaikovsky's rejected E flat Symphony's MSS, clarifying and reconstructing the scribbled notes without the raiment of instrumentation. He faced such problems as the composer's failure to mark any dynamics for the slow movement, so Bogatryryev had to make his own decisions in the light of other Tchaikovsky slow movements. The Scherzo turned out to use material from the tenth of Tchaikovsky's eight pieces for piano, Op. 72, so he was able to use the piano piece for reference.
Bogatryryev 's orchestrations were based on his studies of Tchaikovsky's mastery of instrumentation, and one can hear in the finished work a number of Tchaikovskian instrumental "finger-prints" (although he introduced none of the characteristic roulades of scales swapped between woodwind instruments which appears several times in most of the symphonies). We owe a depth of gratitude to Bogatryryev for producing a quite convincing realisation of the discarded work which pre-dating the Sixth Symphony, his task not unlike Deryck Cooke's efforts with Mahler's unfinished Tenth.
It has been a long time since I heard this so-called Symphony 7, but I was immediately captivated by Kitajenko's ability to iron out many of the work's weaknesses and banalities, knitting Bogatryryev 's efforts into a plausible symphony. In developing his own vision of the work, he is aided by deeply committed playing from the Gürzenich Orchestra, particularly from the magnificent efforts from winds and brass. In turn, the music-making is captured by the engineers as a stunningly transparent recording with a huge dynamic range, especially in 5.0. This version really outdoes the earlier ones by Ormandy and Järvi ,as the symphony sounds new-minted. Even if it doesn't convince you as "echt" Tchaikovsky, it certainly entertains as a truly Romantic symphony. I can't get the lovely third subject in the first movement (orchestrated by Tchaikovsky himself) out of my mind; this sighing melody, starting on hushed strings with interweaving counterpoint and opening up gorgeously in its recapitulation, is unforgettable.
Kitajenko and his pianist Lilya Zilberstein decided to have Tchaikovsky's own reworking of the E flat symphony's Allegro brilliante first movement rather than Taneyev's full version of a Third Piano Concerto. Thankfully, there is not a close recording of the piano, which is heard from the equivalent of front stalls several rows back, and the balance seemed ideal to me, nicely aided by the co-operative ambience of Cologne's Philharmonie auditorium. Zilberstein's playing is both powerful and poetic, and she is truly magisterial in the long, strenuous cadenza at the heart of the single movement, which the orchestra picks up with great urgency and alacrity.
Kitajenko and the Gürzenich here effectively give Tchaikovsky a hearty slap on the back in celebration of the completion of his, and now their, great symphony cycle. It remains to see if the volumes are to be boxed for those who want the whole set in one go. This disc, like many of the others, is a first class choice on its own. Try it and see.
Copyright © 2014 John Miller and HRAudio.net