"Intensity of purpose and musical logic." Here Hurwitz hits it right on the nose in describing the Tchaikovsky concerto. Mullova, who I've read no longer plays this work because she says it is "too much work for not enough music," extracts plenty of music here. In a concerto that offers plenty of opportunities to smear notes, she articulates each phrase with clarity, yet this is not a mechanical performance. It's rich in passion with a full rich accompaniment by Ozawa and the BSO. (Admittedly the sound is a little too lush and thick at times.) My only major quibble with her entire performance is in the coda to the first movement. Usually there's a dramatic tempo increase here, but she plays it pretty slow. Maybe she's trying not to "show off," but I think that's exactly what this section calls for; otherwise it is dull. She takes passages that are normally cut in the Finale, by the way.
But as great as the Tchaikovsky is, it's the Sibelius that's worth the price of the disc. Mullova is icy-cold in the first movement and plays with stark authority. The only recording I know that tops this one is Oistrakh/Rozhdestvensky (BMG/Melodiya), and that one has inferior sound. The slow movement here in particular is luminous and stops time--you will be drawn into this performance's seamless, organic whole. Mullova, who was very young when this was recorded, plays as someone with wisdom beyond her years.
The recording has the electricity of a live performance. The Philips sound, as usual, is warm and smooth. Pity this is out of print, but look for it used. It's worth the effort.
(Post script: I see that this disc has gone out of print. What a shame--more proof Philips does not treasure its superb catalog. This shouldn't be too hard to find used, however, so run, don't walk, to your favorite used CD store and start browing the bins. This should not be out of print.)