This entire performance lasts just a few seconds under an hour (one of the longest in the catalogue) and the Sydney Symphony plays well, with a convincing pulse. They played it repeatedly under Ashkenazy’s predecessor Edo de Waart but the strings are lacking the last ounce of luxuriance and the brass tone refulgent throughout.
I enjoy hearing these wonderful heartfelt melodies unfold in a leisurely rather than manic way, however, I would have appreciated a little more urgency, and that uniquely Slavic sense of yearning in this beautiful, highly strung score, rather than languor bordering on lethargy. One thing I did like was the authentic final chord where Ashkenazy dispenses with the timpani thwack leaving just a morose grunt from the double basses.
Things improve with the spiky, Prokofiev-like scherzo (taken at a moderate tempo) and the soft-centred trio is ravishingly handled. In the emotional core of the work, the famous adagio, Ashkenazy creates just the right flow without mawkish sentimentality or excessively overwhelming climaxes. The finale also radiates festive exuberance with the climaxes carefully controlled and gradated. The youthful Caprice Bohémien makes a very generous fill-up played with great abandon. Sound and balances are satisfactory.