The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (15): Tchaikovsky racers

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (15): Tchaikovsky racers


norman lebrecht

March 31, 2020

How fast do you like your Marche Slave?

This is Lenny, coming in at 9:38

Herbie pips him at 9:35

Gergiev running late at 10:13

Pletnev wins hands down at under 9 minutes. Thrilling performance below.


  • KANANPOIKA says:

    The sooner it’s over, the better………….

  • John says:

    Bernstein and Gergiev take the repeat in the coda. The other two do not. So timings may not be the way to think about this.

  • pjl says:

    is fastest best? REINER is superb at 10:26

    • Robin says:

      Reiner was superb in so many things, even though orchestras often found him a tyrant

    • David K. Nelson says:

      And another very good version, and superbly played and recorded, is by another RCA Victor artist, Arthur Fiedler with of course the Boston Pops (on the classic “Hi-Fi Fiedler” LP). Fiedler probably actually performed this piece more often than all these others combined.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Thanks for mentioning Arthur Fiedler, David. His version with the BPO is certainly not outclassed by the maestros mentioned above.
        For many years, Fiedler would conduct a summer season of “San Francisco Symphony Pops” at the old Civic Auditorium. Admission to the balcony was really cheap (I can’t remember the exact price, but it was affordable enough that as a college student, I could go as often as I wanted), and if you paid a bit more, you could get a seat on the main floor and order food and drinks to be served at your table. Yes – you could eat, drink, and converse during the music if you wanted to!
        The concerts were magnificent, and the orchestra really played for him. I took a number of dates there and we had a great time.
        A couple of Fiedler factoids: 1) his contract specified that a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon must be delivered to his dressing room one hour before the start of each concert and 2) he was an honorary fire chief of the SFFD.

  • Paul says:

    Both Karajan and Pletnev cut out the 12-bar repeat near the end at the final dash for the finishing line, so one could argue that they both cheat by lopping some 15-20 seconds off the work’s total playing time. For my money, Lenny gets it right!

  • Brian says:

    “Gergiev running late” – that cracks me up…

    And the Karajan version was on my first CD!

    Thanks for this.

  • Donald Hansen says:

    And then there’s Sir Adrian Boult at 16:50. Try it; you’ll like it. Are there any longer ones?

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I doubt Pletnev would have been able to reproduce this in a recording studio.

  • Donald Hansen says:

    Oops, that time for Boult was for the 1812 Overture. Marche Slave is 9:57.

    • Dave says:

      I was doubting whether even Boult could stick it out for that long.

      • Donald Hansen says:

        He was faster at 9:25 in his 1967 recording. I don’t have the 1940 recording but it is probably faster or has cuts because it is on just two 78rpm sides.

  • Laurence says:

    Either way, the Pletnev recording got my day of to a great start, something we could all do with these days. Thanks Norman

  • God for Harry, England, and Saint George! says:

    Slavonic March. Славянский марш.

    No need for French here.

  • V.Lind says:

    Reminds me of Martin Clunes in Jeeves and Wooster gloating at the Drones Club because “I finished MILES ahead of you fellows!”

  • NYMike says:

    Anyone notice that Bernstein and Pletnev play at 442 tuning while Karajan and Geriev play at 446? This is not because of recording variables but because of the actual differences of “A” tuning in those orchestras.

  • Nicolas says:

    Your next challenge Norman:
    The fastest Trepak !

  • nydo says:

    I grew up with the Stokowski/London Symphony recording, which I think holds up well. It clocks in around 9:38 as well, though the journey is certainly a bit different than the Bernstein.