Neeme Järvi ends his variable Tchaikovsky symphony cycle on an upswing. Symphony No. 3 benefits greatly from Järvi’s characteristic light and fast approach, which emphasizes the music’s balletic nature. This also serves to point out the work’s structural weaknesses, for example the first movement’s “infinite loop” development. As usual with Järvi, clean-lined textures give prominence to the main melodies, some of which are among Tchaikovsky’s finest. The beautiful Andante elegiaco receives tender treatment from Järvi and gorgeous playing by the Gothenburg Symphony. If I continue to prefer Muti it’s because his heart-on-sleeve approach really brings out the music’s passion. But Järvi’s cooler-headed way is just as viable, and pays off in the celebratory finale.
There’s a whole lot of music by Tchaikovsky that you wouldn’t hear outside of the theater (and in many cases, not at all). This disc’s generous couplings include excerpts from The Voyevoda (the opera, not the symphonic poem of the same name) that are particularly interesting as they form a sort of mini-ballet. Dmitri The Pretender is Tchaikovsky’s take on the well-mined Boris Godunov source material. Next, the brief Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name Day makes for a somber if somewhat inconsequential interlude. Of course Eugene Onegin needs no introduction, and the excerpts here are certainly welcome. Järvi leads all of these with his characteristic flair, supported by top-notch playing by the orchestra. BIS’s recording sounds excellent in both CD and SACD formats. A very worthy release. [7/28/2009]