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Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 - PASC085-CD

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Quick Overview

Boston Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Guido Cantelli

Originally taken from a WGBH-FM Boston broadcast
Recorded 31st January, 1953
Pristine Audio XR remastering by Andrew Rose, July 2007

Download ID: 332296/7/499940
(Duration 43'10")


Notes on the restoration: The original source recording for this restoration was in very good condition for its era - noise levels were relatively low, there was a full range frequency response, and drop-outs were few and far-between. I've been able to largely tame the occasional light radio static, though it may remain just audible at times. The recording did require some considerable re-equalisation to correct a particularly heavy boost in the treble; that aside the applause was quite abruptly cut - fortunately I had a slightly longer section of applause from the same concert which I was able to mix in to the end of this recording to provide a more satisfactory conclusion to a really excellent performance.



Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 66
notes from Wikipedia

The Symphony No. 5 in E minor (Op. 64) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was composed between May and August 1888. It was first performed, under Tchaikovsky's own baton, in St Petersburg on November 6, 1888. It is in four movements:

  1. Andante — Allegro con anima
  2. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
  3. Valse: Allegro moderato
  4. Andante maestoso— Allegro vivace

Similar to the Symphony No. 4, the piece is in cyclic form, using a "motto" theme; unlike the Fourth, however, the theme occurs in each movement (similar to the Manfred Symphony, which Tchaikovsky had finished less than two years before). The "motto" theme itself is derived from a passage in Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar—significantly, a passage using the words "turn not into sorrow". The motto theme has a funereal character in the first movement, but gradually transforms into a triumphant march, which dominates the final movement.

Some critics, including Tchaikovsky himself, have considered it to be an insincere and even crude ending, but the symphony has gone on to become one of the composer's most popular works. The second movement, in particular, is considered to be classic Tchaikovsky: well crafted, colorfully orchestrated, and with a memorable melody for solo horn. For some reason, possibly the very clear musical exposition of the idea of "ultimate victory through strife", the Fifth was very popular during World War II, with many new recordings of the work, and many symphonic performances during those years. One of the most notable performances was by the Leningrad Radio Symphony Orchestra during the Siege of Leningrad. City leaders had ordered the orchestra to continue its performances to keep the spirits high in the city. On the night of October 20, 1941 they played Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 at the city's Philharmonic Hall and it was broadcast live to London. As the second movement began bombs started to fall nearby. The orchestra continued to play till the final note. Since the war it remains very popular, but has been somewhat eclipsed in popularity by the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies.

Critical reaction to the work was mixed, with some enthusiasm in Russia. Berezovsky wrote, "The Fifth Symphony is the weakest of Tchaikovsky's symphonies, but nevertheless it is a striking work, taking a prominent place not only among the composer's output but among Russian works in general. ...the entire symphony seems to spring from some dark spiritual experience...."

On the symphony's first performance in the United States, critical reaction, especially in Boston, was almost unanimously hostile. A reviewer for the Boston Evening Transcript, October 24, 1892, wrote:

"Of the Fifth Tchaikovsky Symphony one hardly knows what to say ... In the Finale we have all the untamed fury of the Cossack, whetting itself for deeds of atrocity, against all the sterility of the Russian steppes. The furious peroration sounds like nothing so much as a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy, the music growing drunker and drunker. Pandemonium, delirium tremens, raving, and above all, noise worse confounded!"

In New York reception was little better. A reviewer for the Musical Courier, March 13, 1889, wrote:

"In the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony ... one vainly sought for coherency and homogeneousness ... in the last movement, the composer's Calmuck blood got the better of him, and slaughter, dire and bloody, swept across the storm-driven score."

Various passages from this symphony were used in the 1937 motion picture Maytime, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The music appears not only in some of the background score, but also in the form of a sung pastiche as a fictitious French opera entitled Czaritsa, "composed" by the character Trentini for the lead soprano (MacDonald).

The second movement was featured prominently in the 1986 film "Lucas".

notes from Wikipedia



Find out more:


Symphony No 5
2. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza

About Tchaikovsky:

BBC Artist Profile
Rich DiSilvio's Tchaikovsky page
Download Full Orchestral Score

CD covers to print:
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Download pdf CD cover

CD-writing cuesheet (save as .cue):
(Use this to split MP3 files - see here)

Cue sheet

Download our Full Discography
Printable text listings of all Pristine Audio historic releases
Restoration by Andrew Rose:
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