Friday, March 8, 2019

Karajan Conducts Tchaikovsky

No. 305 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


Today’s podcast fits as part of a larger series of upcoming listener guides that explore eminent conductors of the 20th Century, either in or possibly outside of the repertoire they are associated with. As part of that series, we will consider Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Arturo Toscanini, Ernest Ansermet and Herbert von Karajan.

Karajan’s repertoire of predilection is German post-classical and romantic, but he also excels in late romantic Italian opera (Verdi), Scandinavian (Sibelius) and Russian/Soviet repertoire (Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky).

Indeed, as stated in the Gramophone review of the Karajan-Tchaikovsky anthology from which I selected today’s tracks, Karajan was unquestionably a great Tchaikovsky conductor. Yet although he recorded the last three symphonies many times, he did not turn to the first three until the end of the 1970s, and then proved an outstanding advocate. Notice, at the opening of the Little Russian symphony, horn and bassoon capture that special Russian colouring, as they do in the engaging Andantino marziale, and the crisp articulation in the first-movement Allegro is bracing. The sheer refinement of the orchestral playing in the scherzo is a delight, and the finale has great zest with splendid bite and precision in the fugato passages and a convincing closing peroration.

The anthology includes the triptych of ballet suites – two were shared in my Vinyl’s Revenge series, and the third – that of the Nutcracker – is part of today’s montage. Unlike the ballet which has so many seasonal undertones, the suite to me cab be enjoyed year-round without any reservations.

Acting as bookends, we open with the polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin and a wonderful rendition of Marche slave, ideally paced, closes the montage.

I think you will love this music too

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