Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos 4-6

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4-6
PERFORMER: Orchestra Dell’Accademia Di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 353 2582


After their impressive Tchaikovsky spectacular (reviewed in the February issue), Gatti and his Santa Cecilia Orchestra hit the heights with the composer’s mighty three among the symphonies. Comparisons this time are not only with the bel canto manner of seniors Muti and Abbado and confrere Daniele Gatti, daring proponent of a curate’s-egg sequence on Harmonia Mundi, but also, inevitably, with Mravinsky’s classic trilogy split between Wembley and Vienna venues in 1960. More heart-on-sleeve when it comes to the big emotional paragraphs, Pappano has marshalled his forces with magnificent discipline and even surpasses Mravinsky in the intensity of some of his piano and pianissimo sequences. I’m thinking especially of the ghostly mazurka which follows the limping waltz of the Fourth’s opening movement – unlike Gergiev on Philips, Pappano doesn’t make a meal of that, though his opening fanfare is superbly elongated – and the way lower strings set the spellbinding atmosphere for the mistiest of horn solos in the Andante cantabile of the Fifth Symphony. Here, and to a less obvious extent in the Symphony’s first-movement Allegro con anima, Pappano emphasises the continuity and build of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic thought through his respect for dynamic detail. There’s no more purposeful or varied Fifth on disc (Mravinsky’s clipped finale was always the weakness of the Mravinsky set; here Pappano allows space for hefty articulation). Climaxes always blaze, with sustained tension keeping hysteria at bay, though the Italian orchestra’s corporate tone, verging on garishness, takes some getting used to. One can’t help feeling that sometimes the string vibrato can seem a little overdone: a few smudged moments in the Fourth’s canzona and the outer movements of the Pathétique reveal live origins, as do podium scrapings and sighings which place Pappano alongside Gergiev and Sir Colin Davis as the most vocal of conductors. Still, he gets results – and it’s no mean achievement to make the Santa Cecilia band sound like a world-class orchestra, fit to stand in these interpretations alongside the finest. David Nice


Reviewed March 2007