Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 6, 'Pathétique': a quick guide to essential recordings
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Three highly recommended recordings: a modern choice, a classic and a legendary account
Mystery surrounds the exact programme of the Pathétique Symphony - 'Let them guess', Tchaikovsky wrote to his nephew. But whatever may lie behind the notes, the Pathétique remains a supremely balanced musical utterance. Here are three outstanding, and widely contrasted, recordings.
The Modern Choice
Musicaeterna / Teodor Currentzis (Sony)
'It’s early days, but only the most exalted of comparisons suggest themselves: to Bernstein (DG, 5/87), Cantelli (EMI, 6/53), Karajan (take your pick) or Mravinsky (DG, considered afresh in November 2015): all hewn out of different performing traditions while sculpted in relief from them, though none save Mravinsky executed to the present, uncanny degree of controlled ferocity. There is a closer, more pertinent relation with Mikhail Pletnev’s first essay (Virgin Classics, 1/92): a hand picked band, moulded in the image of a young, mercurial musician mature beyond his years, working hand in glove with a studio team prepared to do things differently. I remember the storm unleashed by that recording 25 years ago. Will this also upset some applecarts? It is an unsettling experience...'
The Legendary Choice
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra / Evgeny Mravinsky (DG)
'These stereo recordings are classics of the gramophone, landmarks not just of Tchaikovsky interpretation, but of recorded orchestral performances in general...'
The Classic Choice
Russian National Orchestra / Mikhail Pletnev (Erato)
'Here is a modern Pathétique to rival Mravinsky's (his 1960 Leningrad version was also recorded in London), a Russian orchestra to match up to the Leningrad Philharmonic, and a transition from piano to podium for Pletnev that is something to get excited about...'
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