Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony... / Nelsons, Birmingham

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This is an excellent disc, which shows off the Nelsons/CBSO partnership to admirable effect. There’s plenty of adrenalin in the performances and the very good recorded sound conveys both the power and the subtlety of the orchestra’s playing. This is a worthy companion to the previous releases in this Birmingham Tchaikovsky series and it makes me look forward all the more to the remaining three symphonies that are in the pipeline.

– John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Is the finale of Manfred the silliest piece written in the entire 19th century? Is this really what a seamy orgy sounds like? I mean what, after all, is debauched group sex without a tambourine and a fugato? Never mind; the piece is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter. This could have been the Manfred for the ages. Andris Nelsons is that good an interpreter of this truculent work. He projects all the gloom and doom of the outer movements with one hundred percent conviction and a keen attention to rhythm and accent. The scherzo, swift and light, finds the orchestra in top form, while the third movement pastoral has just the right romantic sweep to its climaxes.

So what is the problem? In a word, the brass. This is a live recording, and I have no doubt that in more controlled circumstances Nelsons would have had the trombone play out more when it gets the tune at the very end of the first movement, and would have encouraged a bigger sonority for those fat chords at the start of the fourth movement bacchanal. We know they can do it, but it’s tiny issues like this that prevent my giving this release an absolute top recommendation. Manfred has been unlucky on disc, and while I wouldn’t want to characterize this otherwise stupendous performance in a negative way, there always seems to be something to take a recording down a peg.

The Marche Slave, which opens the disc, is also excellent: swift, hard-hitting, and with plenty of swagger, while the live sonics are vivid, with a particularly solid bass presence. Not perfect, then, but damn close.

– David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ORF-C895151A

  • UPC: 4011790895123

  • Label: Orfeo

  • Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • Conductor: Andris Nelsons

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra