Elgar's two symphonies are good example of interpretations of music being stuck thanks to the strange British conservatism. If you listen to 10 recordings of these symphonies by 10 British conductors, they all sound more or less same in terms of interpretation: controlled, noble, beautiful Elgarian rubato and so on.
The genre of the symphony played a major role throughout the creative life of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. He composed his 1st symphony at the age of 26, & his 6th & last symphony – the Pathйtique – in 1893, the year in which he died. Whereas his 3 last symphonies have remained an integral part of the concert repertoire, performances of his 1st 3 symphonies are still quite rare. Unfairly so, as they are unique individual works, artistic expressions of a high quality. Tchaikovsky defined the symphony as “the most lyrical of musical forms. After all, is it not meant to express that for which there are no words, but which forces itself out of the soul, impatiently waiting to be uttered?”. With these words, Tchaikovsky makes us aware of the special nature of his symphonies. Primarily, they provided him with a musical outlet for the elaboration of his emotions, his mental & spiritual processes.
Two complete Living Stereo LPs on a single disc! Van Cliburn's history-making gold medal at the 1st Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war helped his Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 to become classical music's 1st platinum record.
This recording, made in 1991, contains two fine performances. Indeed the performance of Hamlet is better than fine, it is positively thrilling. The Polish orchestra are well able to deliver on this and Leaper shows considerable empathy for the music. The recording is good, if a little lacking in absolute clarity at the bottom end which tends to be just a touch inclined to 'muddiness' at moments of greatest demand. This should not be over-emphasised in view of the excellence of the music making and the general acceptance of the recording. Indeed, the weighty sound-stage and quite close balance suits the heavier approach of Leaper when compared to Karajan on DGG for example, and to a lesser extent, Jansons on Chandos.
Precocious as a child, Camille Saint-Saëns was once known as the French Mendelssohn. The remarkably assured First Symphony, completed at the age of 17, was praised by Berlioz and Gounod at its first performance. The elegantly crafted Second Symphony defies convention not least by basing the first movement on a fugue, while the symphonic poem Phaéton skilfully brings this Greek mythological drama to life with stampeding horses, thunderbolts and a moving apotheosis. This is Volume 1 of 3 devoted to the five Saint-Saëns Symphonies.