Svetlanov died two months after giving the London concert in 2002 from which this recording was taken. although the Tchaikovsky First was standard repertoire for him, the Firebird wasn't. Perhaps this had to do with his Soviet credentials, since Stravinsky's music was frowned upon as an exile and therefore traitor to the Communist cause. Be that as it may, Svetlanov was not up to his former crude vigor and raw excitement as he entered his seventies. It's heartening that he became more well known in the West with the fall of the Soviet Union, in part because a top British orchestra, although not born to the native Russian sound, could play better than Svetlanov's Moscow orchestra.
This sounds like a very seasoned reading of "Winter Dreams," often tender and measured. The sheen of the strings in the Adagio is quite lovely. The Scherzo is taken too slowly to be sparkling, but Svetlanov gives it a nimble, balletic quality. The Allegro maestoso in the finale, which carries the big tune, needs more forward motion. It exemplifies the feeling of tiredness that I got form the whole performance, nostalgic as the experience to listening was. The Firebird is also measured, but here I didn't sense fatigue. Perhaps the old maestro needed to be cautious about certain tricky rhythms and such, but there's a glow to this reading rarely found in the normal virtuosic account that puts technique over heart.
If you are prepared for the kind of musicianship offered in old age, which can be both wise and beautiful, this is a memorable concert.
The Firebird Suite
1945 version. Barbican, London, 5 June 1996
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13 'Winter Daydreams'
Barbican, London, 19 April 2002
BBC Symphony Orchestra