Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tchaikovsky, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti ‎– Symphony No.1 In G Minor

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

December has been here for two weeks already and we here in Ottawa have yet to experience “winter weather”. I shoveled the driveway once, and we had one bout of freezing rain that caused limited havoc on our roads. Temperatures have been milder than years past, and the Rideau Canal is far from ready for Winterlude. Thank you, Global Warming!

This, I trust, is nothing but a temporary setback, and one has to think that by Christmas (in 10 days already…) snow and chill will add to the holiday landscape now entirely dominated by houses adorned with lights and seasonal decorations!

But if Mother Nature (or Old Man Winter) hasn’t yet provided the picturesque landcape, surely we can rely on music – and Mr. Tchaikovsky – to provide at least musical evocations of winter. This week’s instalment of Vinyl’s revenge goes back to 1975, and a release from EMI of a studio recording by a then-rising name among conductors, a young Riccardo Muti.

I became aware of Maestro Muti when he succeeded Eugene Ormandy at the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he led on numerous international tours. In 1979, he was appointed its music director and, in 1992, conductor laureate. However, since 1971, the Naples-born conductor had been a frequent conductor of operas and concerts at the Salzburg Festival, where he is particularly known for his Mozart opera performances. From 1972 Muti regularly conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and in 1973 he was appointed its principal conductor, succeeding Otto Klemperer. In my vinyl collection, I own a few of these Muti-Philharmonia collaborations - his recording of Mendelssohn’s Scottish symphony, and some of his Tchailkovsky titles, which he later recorded digitally with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Tchaikovsky’s “big three” symphonies are his latter three (nos 4, 5 and 6) and these were the subject of past posts on the Tuesday Blog and on ITYWLTMT. Though less performed, his earlier three symnmphonies are just as full of the Tchjaikovslky idioms, with less of the pathos and despair we find in the latter three. 

Composed between 1866 and 1868 and later revised in 1874, it is clear from reading some of the ample correspondence Tchaikovsky left behind that the gestation and composition of this first symphony was difficult, reminiscent of Brahms’ difficulties in creating his own first symphony. It seems, as will be the case at many times throughout his life, had bouts with his self-confidence as a composer, and paid attention (maybe too much) to the advice and criticisms of colleagues. 

In spite of the difficulties which beset this Symphony, it always remained one of Tchaikovsky's favourite works: "I like this symphony very much, and deeply regret that it's had such an unhappy existence". At the time of its performance in 1883, Tchaikovsky wrote to Karl Albrecht that: "Despite all its huge shortcomings, I still nourish a weakness for it, because it was a sin of my sweet youth", and sometime later to Nadezhda von Meck: "I don't know if you are familiar with my composition. In many respects it is very immature, although fundamentally it is still richer in content than many of my other, more mature works".

The Symphony is dedicated to Nikolay Rubinstein, virtuoso pianist and founder of the Moscow Conservatory who conducted the first ever performance of the work (in its original form) in 1886.Tchaikovsky left no explanation as to the sub-titles he gave to the Symphony, Winter Daydreams, and to the first two movements, Daydreams of a Winter Journey and Land of Gloom, Land of Mist. It is possible that he originally envisaged a programmatic element in the work which may not have survived into the completed version.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.1 In G Minor, op. 13 (TH 24) " Winter Daydreams" (Зимние грезы)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conducting
LP AAA, Angel RL-32013
(Studio, 1975)

NOTE: The YouTube video I had found was pulled this past weekend so instead I amproposing the music as a hyperlink.

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