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CD Review

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

  • Symphony #5 in E minor, Op. 64
  • March slav, Op. 31
  • Capriccio italien, Op. 45
Mason Jones, horn
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
RCA Japanese Ormandy Edition 38052
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The late recordings of Eugene Ormandy (at least for EMI and RCA) have only been sporadically available since the conductor's death. This stands in stark contrast to his Sony legacy, which remains largely in-print and easy to locate. While recent box sets have made Ormandy's RCA output more accessible, collectors not wishing for large purchases can go through ArkivMusic, which reprints much of the Japanese Ormandy Edition.

To be frank, if you have Ormandy's classic Columbia versions of the last three symphonies, you may not need these later efforts. Avoid the late Delos versions all costs, since they are not only more expensive, but rather labored as well. While the Symphony #6 appeared in the U.S. on RCA Silver Seal, I don't recall this particular disc as being especially obtainable. The 1974 Philadelphia Orchestra sounds just as magnificent as previously, in slightly better sound. The fillers were both recorded for Columbia as well, and acquire a touch more weight here. The Symphony #5 is a bit more measured as well, with some exceptionally lovely strings, and a fine horn solo from Mason Jones.

In terms of conception, nothing is especially different here. Timings for each movement are all within ten seconds of each other regardless recording of which you choose, save for the latter andante, which is marginally swifter. The ensemble qualities also remain consistent, with exceptional winds and warm brass. Neither finale – both measured and more majestic than fiery – matches George Szell's own Columbia version, but the playing cannot be any more beautiful than it is here. ArkivCD's reissue program allows hardcore Ormandy collectors and fans of the orchestra to hear a largely forgotten part of this important legacy.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman