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Written in the last year of his life, this most melancholic of symphonies is forever associated with the tragedy of Tchaikovsky's sudden death in 1893. As an additional special bonus, Christoph Eschenbach performs on piano the seldom performed Dumka (Scenes from a Russian Village), making this unusual coupling a unique release.
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, "Pathetique"
“Eschenbach conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in a vivid, deeply passionate performance of Tchaikovsky’s final work, the Pathetique Symphony.
The opening explodes with a mighty punch, and the brasses sound as if hurrying a convict to the scaffold. The composer is clearly in turmoil – the stuttering phrases are queasy, while there is more than a hint of sour wedding bells in the falling pizzicato. The truncated waltz of the second movement is a little treacly, but this is the only blemish. The naughty gaiety and climactic end of the third is good for premature applause, while the exhausted finale welcomes serene oblivion. The final ten minutes are filled with a mourning piano solo, Dumka Op 59.”
11th July 2008
“Here, [Eschenbach's] performance of Dumka continues the trend: the piece itself kicks off as a Lisztian rhapsody on Ukrainian folk themes, before suddenly plunging into sombre uncertainty, while Eschenbach's searching yet flamboyant interpretation leaves you open-mouthed. The symphony, ravishingly played by the Philadelphia Orchestra, is more equivocal. Eschenbach is among the conductors moving away from the idea of the Pathétique as being primarily neurotic, though the tone remains predominantly elegiac.”
26th July 2008
“Do we really need yet another Pathétique? In this case, the answer is "yes". The sheen of the Philadelphia strings and the orchestra's mellow wind bring their own qualities to a performance that, under Christoph Eschenbach, has real fire and passion. It is a top-heavy sound that lacks the darker timbre of performances under Gergiev (Philips) and Ashkenazy (Decca), but there is certainly room for this sleeker view, warmly recorded.”
3rd August 2008
“Tchaikovsky's mighty last work... is played with thrilling ferocity, grace and poignancy in this live recording by the Philadelphia under Christoph Eschenbach. This must be one of the finest performances on disc - and one of the most unusual - as Eschenbach has the nerve to follow its unfollowable coda (after a decent pause) with the 10-minute piano piece 'Dumka'. The effect is to remind us yet further of this heart-on-sleeve composer's lifelong sense of isolation.”
“I find this orchestra's response is wanting in the real atmospheric depths so effortlessly encompassed in an all-Russian performance like any of Mravinsky's or Gergiev's with the Kirov Orchestra.”
“One of music's great tragic masterpieces is here reduced to an exercise in showmanship and flashy presentation which says little and conveys less.”