Tchaikovsky: Pathétique

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Wiener Symphoniker
ALBUM TITLE: Pathétique
WORKS: Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Philippe Jordan


Philippe Jordan is the kind of conductor even the Vienna Philharmonic would be proud of having as its music director. That honour, for now, falls to the city’s Symphony Orchestra. His Tchaikovsky Pathétique – its soubriquet is neatly discussed in the booklet note – is as well prepared as you might expect. But for me it doesn’t catch fire until the finale. Would that the well-muscled approach to this great Adagio lamentoso had also been applied to the aria-like second subject of the first movement. Here it’s too slow, seeming to have quotation marks around it. And in the waltz, which I’ve always thought of as joyous-gay, Jordan takes us back to the ‘limping’ cliché.

The Vienna Symphony brass sounds full and deep, and the clarinet takes its whispers as close to Tchaikovsky’s record injunction pppppp as I’ve ever heard it. But there’s something glassy about the strings, and they don’t dig deep in the big whirlwind development. I wonder if the blame shouldn’t rest with the sound: can the Musikverein really be that reverberant even with no audience in it? And shouldn’t there be a companion-piece on the disc, 43 minutes as it stands? Maybe followers of the orchestra will buy it anyway, but there’s not enough enticement for the big wide world to do so, electrifying finale notwithstanding.


David Nice