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Tchaikovsky Symphony No 4, Romeo And Juliet / Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra

Tchaikovsky / Rno / Pletnev
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186384  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

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. 4. Romeo and Juliet Mikhail Pletnev, cond; Russian Natl O PENTATONE 5186 384 (SACD: 60:19)


This is not a reissue from the mid-1990s cycle on DG (recently repackaged in a bargain box), but a brand new recording. I don’t know Read more if it portends a second complete cycle from Pletnev, but on this evidence that would be most welcome.


His overall conception of the symphony has not changed radically since DG in 1995, with many of the same distinctive interpretive touches. But everything is now in sharper focus, more acutely characterized, more subtle in nuance. Tempos are significantly faster in all four movements, and the DG now leaves a comparatively flat, bland impression.


Having said that, the reading will still not be to all tastes—Karajanesque in its extreme refinement, with legato suaveness of style, smoothed-out attacks, and rounding of staccato articulations. At the same time there is a balletic grace and an aristocratic quality reminiscent of Mravinsky. To a surprising degree, Pletnev’s conception of the first movement minimizes contrast between the first and second themes—the former phrased with wondrous subtlety, the latter taken very fast and smoothly. In the B-Major third theme the dead-center tuning of the soft timpani is a real (and rare) pleasure. The development is played for transparency, the buildup into the recapitulation tightly controlled, but projecting a remarkable sense of simmering power under the surface. The coda has an extraordinary feathery beauty, sinuously shaped even in the fff affirmations of the last page. Of the Old School Russian sound there is barely any hint, though a subtle trace of the old trademark horn vibrato remains in the recapitulation of the second theme. In Pletnev’s hands the Andante is a cool study in understated blue-grays; the pizzicato scherzo velvet in tone, shaped with exquisite subtlety. In the finale he radically downplays the bombast, with light, transparent balancing of the massive textures, and graceful, shapely phrasing.


Cool transparency is again the watchword in the slow introduction to Romeo and Juliet —though for all the avoidance of old-style Russian excess, the players’ national ancestry still seems to come through in an intensely characterful, nasal quality to the string sound at bars 11 ff. The Allegro giusto memorably combines silky refinement and rhythmic snap; the love theme has an icy tonal purity to the strings, with a concentrated, highly individual shaping of the line that really is quite special. The theme’s climactic reprise similarly demonstrates a remarkable balance of aristocratic poise and impulsive surge, again with a suggestive hint (but no more) of old-style Russian brass vibrato.


The recording balances a realistic concert hall perspective with exemplary sharp focus of detail (I can’t comment on the surround sound). Altogether superbly distinctive, and well worth adding to your collection even if you already own the DG versions.


FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 4 in F minor, Op. 36 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
2. Romeo and Juliet Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869/1880; Russia 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36: I. Andante sostenuto - Moderato con anima
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36: II. Andantino in modo di canzone
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36: III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato - Allegro
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36: IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco
Romeo and Juliet (3rd version, 1880): Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (3rd version, 1880)

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