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Tchaikovsky Sympony No. 6 (Valery Gergiev, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra)

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Wonderful recording of a masterful work.

The first time that I heard Tchaikovsky's Sympony No. 6 (Pathétique) was in a live performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, with a guest conductor, Jerzy Semkow, as I recall. It was a spectacular evening, with the conductor and orchestra in perfect harmony, playing before an enraptured audience.

Granted, Symphony No. 6 is the kind of piece that lends itself to this kind of an evening. It's an amazing piece. The work was originally titled in Russian “Paticheskij,” then recast into French as “Pathétique.” Tchaikovsky himself said of the work that he put the entirety of his soul into it. On hearing it, I find myself reflecting on life from its beginning, along with the euphoria, tragedy, and everything else that comes in between experienced throughout the course of life. As I listened to the final movement (by all accounts broody, very unusual for a conclusion), an eerie sense of conclusion overtakes me, a sense of death. Only after I heard it for the first time and experienced those sentiments along the way did I learn that the conclusion was in fact prescient: nine days after taking the podium at the work's premier, Tchaikovsky was dead. On listening carefully, you might well find yourself deeply moved as I was.

I thought that it would be impossible to capture the magic of that evening at the Columbus Symphony with Maestro Semkow. Earlier this year, I found myself in a discussion of Russian Romantic composers, including Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Wanting a friend who was unfamiliar with Tchaikovsky's Pathétique to understand my description, I looked for a good recording that might be sufficiently faithful to the kind of performance that I experienced.

When I played this recording of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra led by Valery Gergiev, I sat back and closed my eyes. Not ten bars into the first piece, I was pulled in. It's a very good performance, and the recording does the piece justice. There is no substitute for a good live performance but this is a recording that I won't hesitate to recommend.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-05-18 08:38 PM
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