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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 6; Rautavaara: Apotheosis / Franck

Release Date: 06/24/2003 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyEinojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  Mikko Franck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Rautavaara's Apotheosis, one of his most accessible and beautiful works, is a gently rhapsodic interlude drawn from material for his opera Vincent. The composer's characteristically beguiling and vividly orchestrated thematic material communicates a sense of never-ceasing aspiration, which builds to a prolonged and somewhat deliriously ecstatic climax before ebbing away in an atmosphere of blissful uncertainty. Mikko Franck demonstrates his affinity for the composer's idiom in his probing and affectionate realization of the score.

Following immediately after the Rautavaara, Tchaikovsky's Pathétique sounds rather quaint; perhaps it's best taken separately. Franck leads a surprisingly expansive performance that at just
Read more under 55 minutes nearly equals Bernstein's record-breaking 58-minute rendition on DG. The similarities go beyond the timings, however, as Franck also favors emphatic gestures and long-lined phrasing. Franck diverges from this path somewhat in his rather schmaltzy, Hollywood-style treatment of the first movement's "big tune"--just the sort of indulgence critics regularly pilloried Bernstein for, although you'll notice Lenny's performance is surprisingly straightforward in its demeanor.

But this is only a momentary quirk in an otherwise thoroughly integrated and beautifully realized performance, one that registers the music's passion with telling fidelity. Listen to the climax of the first-movement development (which Franck takes at a crushingly slow tempo) where the low brass emit wails of despair that sound almost human. The other sections of the orchestra offer their own vividly characterized playing--the manic winds in the scherzo, the melancholy strings in the finale. This last also goes at a powerfully slow pace (though still not as slow Bernstein's transfiguring account--another record at almost 17 minutes), yet Franck keeps the musical pulse flowing and builds to a shattering climax, with stopped horns sneering like ghastly crows.

The Swedish Radio Symphony's marvelous performance suffers only by comparison to the white-hot, super virtuoso playing of the New York Philharmonic for Bernstein (especially in the scherzo). However, Ondine's more modern recorded sound has greater spaciousness, relaying the full acoustic environment of the large hall location (though Deutsche Grammophon's 1986 recording has held up well over the years, and even has a slight edge in terms of clarity). If you aren't interested in "just another Pathétique" (who is?), then you should definitely get this disc, especially as it includes the excellent Rautavaara piece.

--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mikko Franck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 04/2002 
Venue:  Berwald Hall, Sweden 
Length: 54 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Apotheosis by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  Mikko Franck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; Finland 
Date of Recording: 01/2003 
Venue:  Berwald Hall, Sweden 
Length: 7 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Finland (1992).
Composition revised: Finland (1996). 

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