WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Francesca da Rimini
PERFORMER: Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 453 448-2 Reissue (1996)
Consistent with the rest of Pletnev’s cycle of Tchaikovsky symphonies, there are no headlong raptures or doomy cloudbursts in this Fourth – only a well-tempered lyric flow which I appreciate more than when I first heard the performance. Fate hardly batters at the door, but Pletnev reminds us that the first-movement crises are conducted almost entirely in dance metres, however lopsided, and the divertissement-like quality of the symphony’s second half is elegantly underlined. Even so, there’s always Mravinsky from 1957 to remind us that we can have the passion as well as the precision.
Francesca, new to CD, is peerless: bass-heavy dark clouds with tam-tam crashes of real presence, a headlong whirlwind and a poignant love scene which is never overstressed.
Tchaikovsky’s most heartbreaking melody, very much in sympathy with Dante’s unfairly damned lovers, is mesmerisingly announced by the clarinettist – a sharp intake of breath merely underlines the human, vocal quality of the delivery – and the RNO’s slightly gauzy woodwind just happen to suit this song of remembered happiness. David Nice