Vasily Petrenko conducts Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies 3, 4 & 6

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3, 4 and 6
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4162

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None of Vasily Petrenko’s recordings with his Liverpool orchestra has missed its mark so far, but this second half of his Tchaikovsky symphonies cycle thrusts home for me a singular skill of his: the ability to build a long line over a substantial period of time. It happens to the generous melodies at the hearts of the three slow movements here, above all in the Sixth’s concluding Adagio lamentoso. Slow, to be sure, but burning within; a masterclass in both intensity and orchestral colour, the bassoon and lower string lines de profundis as impressive as any of the greats.

When it comes to the love-aria which is the second subject proper of the first movement, I’m not so sure: this has brackets around it, in marked contrast to the general on-the-move approach of Christian Lindberg (see below). But the development blazes, like all its counterparts, incisive strings always phrasing to perfection. Where Lindberg is revelatory in following metronome markings, Petrenko knows where to apply the atmosphere; the ghostly waltz in the Fourth’s opening movement is superb, with dynamics on the cusp of audibility. He always does his own creative thing, and it works wonders on the Third Symphony; the soft phrase-endings of the preludial funeral march and the brusqueness of similar rhythmic patterns in the movement’s main argument show different approaches to the same thing, while the ‘Rhenish’ waltz is a delight. All finales have heat-of-the-moment codas, and the sound certainly serves the vividness of the interpretations.

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David Nice