Masterful Tchaikovsky

The Russian National Orchestra is on wonderful form.

Composer: Tchaikovsky

Repertoire: ‘Pathétique’ Symphony No.6; Capriccio Italien

Artist: Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Orchestral

Label: Pentatone Classic pTC5186386

The Music: Composed just before his sudden death (possibly suicide, possibly not), Tchaikovsky’s last, tragic symphony is a display of devastating orchestral mastery. The composer’s sunnier side sparkles through the Capriccio Italien, drafted during an earlier stay in Rome.

The Performance: This recording comes from a new Tchaikovsky cycle by the RNO and Pletnev – and it’s far from just an updated clone of their earlier ‘Pathétique’, which was seriously fiery (DG, e471 7422). This one is a touch mellower in tone and style, with no loss at all in terms of class and firepower. In some ways the performance of Capriccio Italien impresses even more, since the work can often seem like a fun piece and little else. Here, dark Latin passion smoulders soulfully alongside the flair that the orchestra brings to the trumpet fanfares and whirling tarantella dance.

The Verdict: Fine material from this stellar team, complementing their previous ‘pathétique’ recording rather than replacing it.

Want More? Another instalment in this new series features the Fifth Symphony and the magnificent symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini (Pentatone, pTC 5186 385). For Tchaikovsky off the beaten track, the RNO and Pletnev also excel in the ‘Manfred’ Symphony and The Tempest (DG, 439 8912).