Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 3 in D,
Dmitri Kitaenko, cond; Cologne Gürzenich O
OEHMS 670 (SACD: 68: 19)
For the second time in as many issues, I’m forced to update my 36:6 review covering four recent Tchaikovsky symphony cycles, those by Christoph Poppen, Vladimir Jurowski, Mikhail Pletnev, and Dmitri Kitaenko. Previously, I’ve leaned towards Pletnev, as much for the conductor’s
intensely dramatic readings as for PentaTone’s spectacular SACD recordings. Kitaenko, however, has run Pletnev a close second, with readings perhaps less volatile than Pletnev’s but more balanced and even-handed for it, and with equally impressive SACD sound from Oehms.
Jurowski asked if the London Philharmonic could come out and play with him, and it did, always with the superb execution and teamwork that are hallmarks of that venerable ensemble, but not always with full heart in the game. Also, the LPO’s house label didn’t record Jurowski in SACD format.
Poppen’s cycle, also on Oehms like Kitaenko’s but not in SACD, has proved to be the least of the good. The nominally three different German regional orchestras with which he has recorded his cycle—the Southwest German Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern (No. 1), the Saarbrücken Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (No. 4), and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie (Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 6)—are closely interrelated, in that the first two merged to form the third in 2007. In all cases, however, Poppen’s ensembles are no match for Pletnev’s Russian National Orchestra, Jurowski’s LPO, or Kitaenko’s German regional band, the Gürzenich Orchester Köln. Moreover, in going head-to-head against itself with two parallel cycles of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, Oehms gave Kitaenko a competitive advantage over Poppen by recording the former in SACD.
With this release of the Third Symphony, Kitaenko is shy only the Fourth to complete his cycle, and when he does, I’d say it will be an excellent alternative to Pletnev’s. As indicated above, Kitaenko’s readings tend to be somewhat lower voltage than Pletnev’s, but then they don’t fluctuate as widely towards the emotional extremes, which many listeners may appreciate. And while I wouldn’t judge an entire Tchaikovsky symphony cycle by its Second or Third in the series—neither of which is held by critical opinion to be among the composer’s greatest masterpieces—still, the exceptional care Kitaenko takes to bring out the “Polacca” element in the finale, which gives the Third Symphony its “Polish” nickname, exemplifies Kitaenko’s overall approach. This is a fine penultimate addition to Kitaenko’s cycle, and it can be unreservedly recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Sleeping Beauty Suite, Op. 66a by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Written: 1889; Russia
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