Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 / Hamlet Overture

Buy: Amazon iTunes

Andris Nelsons leads the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for this acclaimed Orfeo release.

“It is a remarkable fact that among all the recordings that the CBSO made under its distinguished conductors Simon Rattle and Sakari Oramo there is not a single Tchaikovsky symphony. Now this omission has been rectified by the orchestra’s new conductor, 30-year-old Latvian Andris Nelsons, in a very fine recording that marks the beginning of a partnership with the German label Orfeo.

Nelsons, one of the generation of exciting young conductors who have recently taken over UK orchestras, spent his early life in the Soviet system and seems to have absorbed Tchaikovsky into his bloodstream. But it’s one thing to make this music sound natural and idiomatic, quite another to make an old warhorse of a symphony sound fresh, as he does.

The standard is set immediately, with the recurring “motto” theme on low clarinet carefully sculpted yet at the same time given room to breathe. Nelsons has clearly thought about the music carefully, and concentrates on bringing every phrase alive. At the same time, the players are given room to express themselves, and they rise to the challenge, with delicious woodwind playing and ripe brass, while the strings have an almost Mantovanian sheen in places.” (The Guardian)