Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphony No. 6; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Russian NO/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 471 742-2 Reissue (1996, 1998)
Mikhail Pletnev’s 1991 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony for Virgin is a modern benchmark; the present recording, with the same orchestra, dates from nearly five years later. The outward differences between the two are negligible. Both present a lean view of this impassioned work; Pletnev favours tenderness and excitement over heart-on-sleeve emoting (this is also the case in DG’s makeweight, Romeo and Juliet). The DG version may have the edge in recorded sound, featuring more focused strings and preferable balance in some spots, but the Virgin performance is the one to have. It deftly limns distinctive characters for the Adagio, Allegro non troppo and Andante themes of the first movement (for DG, Pletnev’s treatment of the last of these seems breezy and lightweight), finds wistful gentleness in the second, begins the third movement with greater flair and unanimity, and throughout makes performance decisions sound communicative rather than merely justifiable. David Breckbill