The coupling of Tchaikovsky’s early symphonies is a popular one. Interestingly, Vasily Petrenko, the in demand music director of Liverpool’s Philharmonic chooses the superb 5th in place of the less interesting 3rd Symphony (Polish).
Gergiev recorded the early symphonies (including the 3rd) on LSO Live. They are superb, beautifully played and the hall well engineered into something sounding quite lovely. If you are looking for these works, Gergiev will suit just fine.
Petrenko is now music director of the Oslo Philharmonic, too. This orchestra made a statement with its own set of Tchaikovsky symphonies on Chandos. The reviewers went gaga. They are still pretty benchmark stuff under the wonderful Maris Jansons. Both orchestras keep Petrenko very busy.
He has turned things around in Liverpool, making the orchestra into a refined band with an international profile. His recordings with the orchestra are testament to its improvement. Try to hear their recent Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances or the Shostakovich Symphony cycle. All wonderful.
His Tchaikovsky is mainstream of interpretation and captures the essence of both the early potential in the tuneful Winter Dreams Symphony and in the mature 5th. Ensemble is very fine throughout the three symphonies. You'd be hard to find better on record. Only under severe scrutiny do you hear a few rough edges -- slightly out of tune second oboe, a chord not quite balanced. All very minor.
The melodies like the great horn solo of the 5th is where the top orchestras shine with their legendary soloists. The Vienna Philharmonic with Maazel on Decca is a case in point, especially the 5th's horn solo. Yet, the LIverpool player acquits himself/herself admirably. As do the clarinets at the opening of the 5th's first movement.
So, a very good Volume 1 of the Tchaikovsky Symphonies. Which bodes well for Petrenko's Volume 2.
Tchaikovsky Symphonies Volume 1
Symphony No.1 in G minor ‘Winter Dreams’ op.13
Symphony No.2 in C minor ‘Little Russian’ op.17
Symphony No.5 in E minor op.64
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko
Catalogue No: ONYX4150