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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5 / Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra

Tchaikovsky / Rno / Pletnev
Release Date: 05/31/2011 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186385  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5. Francesca da Rimini Mikhail Pletnev, cond; Russian Natl O PENTATONE PTC 5186 385 (SACD: 71:41)


Boyd Pomeroy was enthusiastic about Mikhail Pletnev’s “superbly distinctive” return to the Tchaikovsky Fourth Read more ( Fanfare 34: 6)—and I’m impressed with this follow-up Fifth, although perhaps not for the same reasons. Pomeroy was most taken with the “transparency” and “refinement,” as well as the resistance to bombast. I’ve not heard that recording, but what most strikes me on this new one is its richness and ruggedness, as well as its willingness to crush us at the climaxes.


Granted, the orchestral playing is not entirely consistent. From the very opening, woodwind solos can be stilted; balances are sometimes askew (the fff trumpets barely cut through the textures at m. 453 in the first movement); the solo horn in the second movement has more than a trace of the old Soviet vibrato. Then, too, even if, like me, you’re sympathetic to an interventionist approach to tempos, some of Pletnev’s more self-conscious twists and turns may make you queasy (try the passage leading up to the Poco più animato at m. 296 in the finale—or, for that matter, the clunky treatment of the Poco più animato itself).


Still, the sense of ensemble (or at least orchestral camaraderie) is generally good, the strings (with violins divided) have an opulent glow, and the brass have tremendous authority (listen to the granitic return of the motto toward the end of the second movement). Pletnev offers some moments of first-class rhetorical insight (listen, as but one example, to the slight sense of threat in his urgent account of the third movement’s B section), too; and for all his spurts of willfulness (even doggedness), he never loses the larger arc of the music’s progress. In sum, while this Fifth is no challenge to Koussevitzky’s, Cantelli’s, or Mravinsky’s (to mention just three very different classics), it’s a strong contender if you’re looking for this repertoire in modern sound.


Francesca (with a few minor tinkerings in the scoring) gets a similar performance—you might find the love music slightly arch, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the churning drama. The surround sound tracks offer an exceptional sense of space—and the resilient bass lines come across with unusual clarity. Warmly recommended.


FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Russia 
Date of Recording: 6/2010 
Venue:  DZZ Studio 5, Moscow 
2. Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Russia 
Date of Recording: 6/2010 
Venue:  DZZ Studio 5, Moscow 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64: I. Andante - Allegro con anima
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64: II. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64: III. Valse: Allegro moderato
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64: IV. Finale: Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32

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