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  Philips Classics -
  475 619-7
  Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 - Gergiev
  Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique"

Wiener Philharmoniker
Valery Gergiev (conductor)
Track listing:
  Total time: 43:19
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recorded at Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna

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Reviews: 5 show all

Review by akiralx June 7, 2005 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I debated for quite a while over whether or not to buy this SACD, as I’m not a great fan of Gergiev – nor is the Pathetique one of my favourite Tchaikovsky symphonies (I prefer the Fifth and First). However I’m glad I did, as this is really an excellent live performance, given a very fine recording, in which you hear rather more of the hall’s acoustic in multi-channel than in stereo. Gergiev here manages to enshrine the true spirit of Tchaikovsky, coupled with flawless orchestral execution by the VPO.

The result has the freshness of Karajan’s mid-1960s DG recording (by far the best of his Pathetiques) and much of the Slavonic intensity of Mravinsky in his recording made at about the same time.,

The live performance here was given shortly after the Beslan massacre, and a palpable sense of tragedy does inhabit the performance. Gergiev generally prefers fastish tempi, particularly in the central movements, which I like very much: often these two movements can seem inconsequential alongside the intensity of the opening movement and the tragedy of the slow finale (I often feel the same about the last two movements of Schubert’s last piano sonata D960).

Here the waltz is played directly but with elegance, and the march in the typical Russian manner, at a brisk speed – for something rather less manic try Furtwangler’s famous 1938 BPO recording, or Sinopoli on DG (one of the finest ‘Western’ performances).

But it’s the outer movements that really separate the men from the boys in the Pathetique – and here Gergiev excels. The murmured opening of the work is superbly handled, but it is the entry of the second subject at 4’21 that at first suggests a truly great interpretation is on the cards. This theme is played with passion but a hint of restraint, whereas on its reappearance at 6’51 it is given with full power, played with an electrifying sense of tragic grandeur. There is a sense of spontaneity here that puts one in mind of a Mengelberg or Stokowki – one really does feel that the VPO is hanging onto the end of the baton (not that Gergiev uses one, but you get the idea...) The depth of tone at the VPO’s disposal is wonderful to hear, as it is in the Finale, which is played with a compelling sense of drama and resignation.

Sonically this sounds very fine in multi-channel: the soundstage is wide and deep, with the orchestra sounding full and vivid. Some might feel that the vivid presence of the orchestra rather precludes a genuine pppppp when the composer askes for it, i.e. in the low woodwind just before the fortissimo crashing entry of the main allegro in the opening movement. Some bassoonists allegedly stuff their instruments with socks to achive this very quiet dynamic, but here the music only really goes down to ppp. But this is only a tiny flaw.

The rear channels provide suitable hall ambience (no instruments looming from behind the listener), although some might find the acoustic slightly too generous – it never becomes boomy or reverberant but one can sense (if you didn’t already know) that the Musikverein is a big hall. I rather like the effect as it seems to add to the drama of the performance, as it does in some other VPO live recordings, especially Furtwangler’s superbly intense and tragic Brahms Second Symphony from 1945, available on DG and Andante.

In stereo this effect is lessened, and the soundstage is narrower, but the power of the performance is hardly diminished. I’m going to give this 5 stars for performance, which I can’t recall doing before, as I do feel that this interpretation is one of the best Tchaikovsky recordings available, in any format.

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Review by mwagner1962 May 11, 2005 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  

I picked this up today and gave it a serious listen. I was a bit nervous as to the anticipated sound quality, as I hated the sound of Gergiev's Scheherazade with the Kirov.

Needless to say, I am much happier with this recording, especially the performance with the Vienna Philharmonic. I agree with a previous reviewer, as Gergiev gets some serious demonic energy here. I have yet to hear such a romping 3rd movement, and it is amazing that the audience didn't erupt into screaming applause at the end. I like the moving nature of the other movements, and Gergiev shows a excellent knowledge of the piece. This knowledge carries over to a convincing effort.

There are some strange sounds on this disc. Toward the end of the 1st movement (as the orchestra displays some serious ppppppp playing) there are some strange sounds, almost like rasping breathing. The sound is very good overall, and there is some nice space around the players, especially the woodwinds.

One thing that is VERY strange is the apparent placing of the low brass. I am hearing tuba from the left side of the soundstage (and left speaker). I have gotten used to hearing string bass from the left side of the soundstage on MTT's SFSO Mahler, but actually hearing tuba from the left is a bit odd. I would have liked to see a picture of the orchestra on stage to see how the orchestra was set up.

Finally, I have to say that this is a NOISY recording!!!! I do not know if it was the audience, or orchestra members being slightly careless, as there are bizarre clicks, pops, wheezes throughout. Needless to say, I still wish that Phillips would switch from doing PCM recordings to full DSD, as the sound is not quite up to what I feel it is capable of being, especially from the Vienna Philharmonic.

My $.02 worth!!!

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Review by beardawgs May 6, 2005 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
What fascinates me the most about Gergiev’s musicianship in general is his authority over the score and music he is conducting, and his ability to create tension and drama from opening bars of Tch’s 6th is staggering. For the purpose of writing this review, I went back to Jarvi’s fine account of the same work on BIS label with Gothenburg SO, and direct comparison of the two underlines one major difference – Gergiev has no issues with Tchaikovsky’s music, he is prepared to take more risks and offers more drama and excitement. This performance in a way neutralises decades of Austro-German dominance in the western discography market, treating this symphony as a truly ‘pathetique’ farewell to composer’s life. Gergiev gave Tchaikovsky his balls back and made this work more of the dramatic reminiscence of his turbulent life than a sad farewell.

Vienna Phil responds eagerly to conductor’s demands, producing a bit rougher sound than we’re used to, but then again, that warm and mellow sound was created by a completely different sort of conductors. Not that the orchestra lacks a single bit of emotional involvement, but emotions produced here are more of a looking forward type. Even if Gergiev is almost 2 minutes broader in the first movement than Jarvi, his performance has more urgency and definitely more dynamic shading and raw drama. Waltz is fast with more muscle and Scherzo full of storm and turbulence. But it is the final movement where Gergiev refuses to paint the usual picture of desperation. Inevitable end is clear and coming, but it didn’t leave me emotionally drained and exhausted.

This performance is of course just one of many views how this symphony should be treated, and I enjoyed it very much. Added bonus is hearing Vienna Philharmonic in a completely different sound picture, and the recording captures all the excitement of a live event. The recording is good, lacking just a bit of natural perspective of some Telarc recordings. Can’t say this is a single clear first choice, but right now it is my top recommendation on SACD.

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Works: 1  

Peter Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 in B minor, TH 30 Op. 74 "Pathétique"