Witold Rowicki Conducts Tchaikovsky

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Witold Rowicki, one of Poland’s most important conductors of the 20th century and leading figure of his generation, is internationally known especially for the complete recording of Dvorák’s symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra as well as for his impulsive Tchaikovsky performances. In his native country he was admired as the conductor to whom Witold Lutoslawski dedicated his brilliant Concerto for orchestra and who strongly promoted the music of his compatriots. The Tchaikovsky studio recordings presented here were made in 1962 (Fifth Symphony) and 1969 (Sixth Symphony) with the Südwestfunk Symphony Orchestra and in 1979 (Nutcracker Suite) with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. Rowicki had many other appearances with German orchestras, each of them enthusiastically greeted by the press and the public.


Witold Rowicki was surely Poland’s ‘number one’ conductor in the second half of the 20th century, a fascinating musician not to be underrated, who always had plenty to tell us about whatever repertoire he tackled.

What a pity that Rowicki didn’t tackle the Nutcracker Suite in the studio. Well, happily SWR has come up with an all-Tchaikovsky double-pack featuring that very suite (with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1979) in addition to Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, both with the SWR Symphony Orchestra.

The suite’s highlights are surely the incisive, super-swift Overture and a ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ that is elegant, unhurried and precise. Both the suite and the Pathétique are offered in reasonably good stereo sound, the symphony volatile in the extreme, the initial statement of the first movement’s secondary theme free and rhapsodic, the Allegro molto vivace third movement broadening near the close before speeding up again, the finale charged with emotion.

The Fifth (1962) is heavier, the transition to the second idea very emphatic, the Andante cantabile slow movement deeply elegiac, with raging full-orchestral interjections. The finale is broader than is generally the fashion nowadays but is none of the worse for that, its peroration speeding excitedly. A fascinating set that should prove stimulating for all fans of charismatic conducting and will hopefully prompt further Rowicki releases and reissues. There must surely be plenty of broadcast recordings hidden away in various radio archives.

-- Gramophone

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 11, 2022

  • Catalog Number: SWR19112CD

  • UPC: 747313911288

  • Label: SWR Music

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • Conductor: Witold Rowicki

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg


  1. Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

    Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Ensemble: SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg

    Conductor: Witold Rowicki

  2. Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, "Pathétique

    Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Ensemble: SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg

    Conductor: Witold Rowicki

  3. The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a

    Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Ensemble: Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR

    Conductor: Witold Rowicki