I have long thought the Romantic works often need to be performed with some classical discipline and attention to structure. The drama and passion (though that assertion has philosophical difficulties) are built in to the music.
I like this recording quite a lot, but I should tell you that the Penguin Guide, 2003/4, did not. They admit that "the orchestra plays very well indeed and is meticulously rehearsed," and I entirely agree. But, they thought the performance of the symphony is "passionless and entirely without flair." They have nothing much good to say about the Romeo and Juliet, either. Humph! I say. How could that be? For me, we have tight, disciplined performances which bring out the color, the drama, and the passion in the scores.
The Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, third and last version, 1880, is dramatic and varied. I don't find much benefit in trying to figure out a detailed program is worked out into the music. We know the story has a foreboding atmosphere, that the Montagues and Capulets are feuding, the Romeo and Juliet love each other despite the wishes of their families, and that they die tragically. What more could be asked of this performance, I don't know. It's dynamic, dramatic, tight, full of color and contrast, and very well recorded to boot. If it were a live performance, the audience would have risen in a standing ovation.
The programme Tchaikovsky laid out for the 4th Symphony in the first two movements, lays out depression and melancholy, broken by a few sweet dreams and memories. The third movement is cheerier but the feelings evoked are not coherent. Finally, in the fourth movement, he seeks a way out, suggesting if one cannot find happiness in oneself, maybe one can find it in other people. Perhaps life is good after all. Now, I must say that is a philosophy with which I profoundly disagree. I think that if one cannot find joy in oneself, one can never get it from other people save on a very temporary basis. I don't have much use for positive thinking, as some people have a chemical imbalance which cannot be thought away. Personally, I think the 4th movement shows he did have an internalized resource of joy to fight melancholy. But music is music, after all, and one needn't think of any such programmes.
I must say that such a philosophy might lead to despair and suicide when it doesn't work. However, I think the tale about a supposed informal "court of honor" sentencing Tchaikovsky to suicide over his homosexuality, mentioned in the CD notes as one of the theories about his death, is not very credible. I never have from when I first read of this theory in the old High Fidelity magazine. Was this sort of court of honor a custom? And why should Tchaikovsky obey it?
In sum, I think the performances are terrific and the recording quality is quite stunning.