The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its music director Andris Nelsons here present their second Tchaikovsky CD, in an ongoing cycle, for Orfeo. Besides the Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet, we offer his Symphony No. 6 in B minor, the so-called ‘Pathétique’. If one takes the first version of Romeo as a starting point, then a full 25 years lie between these two works (the Symphony reached its first performance only nine days before the sudden, mysterious death of its composer). But both works bear the marks of Tchaikovsky’s emotion-laden compositional style. They alternate between a brooding, muffled downheartedness and a sudden effervescence and rearing up; and Nelsons and the CBSO follow these emotional gear-changes closely from bar to bar. This performance offers the full and varied palette of Tchaikovsky’s lush and glowing orchestration, from the brusque accents in the wind and gnarled embellishments in the strings in the faster sections to the downright ecstasy of the broad melodic passages.
Yet over it all there reigns a lucid clarity, which allows for a soulful treatment of the musical motives that is never geared just for effect nor descends into mawkishness, be this in the love motive of Romeo and Juliet, the chorale in the first movement of the 'Pathétique' or the (death?) march in the third. To Andris Nelsons, this symphony has a continuous pulse that can be heard from the very beginning that signifies Tchaikovsky’s insight into his unavoidable fate – and we can hear it in this interpretation. This is important to Nelsons, for above and beyond the beauties of this music he has a deep concern for its earnest, deeply personal messages – whether euphoric, pugnacious or resigned – both in the Overture and in the Symphony. And indeed, the CBSO and Andris Nelsons make Tchaikovsky’s passion and melancholy so compelling that listening makes one forget one’s reserve, leaving one both deeply impressed and moved.
Romeo Und Julia
Adagio - Allegro Non Troppo
Allegro Con Grazia
Allegro Molto Vivace
The Independent on Sunday
5th December 2010
“The choir of low woodwind, stinging fugato and dewily youthful love theme [of the Overture] are vividly contrasted. Tchaikovsky's last symphony is more challenging. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra strings use a lot of bow, and a little too much fabric conditioner in the valedictory 'Adagio Lamentoso'.”
11th December 2010
“Andris Nelsons draws nuanced playing from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra”
“Nelsons and the CBSO respond to the Pathétique symphony's mood of fate-shrouded tragedy in a way that's lyrical rather than melodramatic...Even among the formidable recorded competition, the CBSO's classy, supple playing is a major asset, reflecting Nelsons's impressive influence.”
21st January 2011
“There are recordings of Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” that wring every last drop of gloom from the music. But I’m not sure that makes them more affecting than this intelligent, beautifully paced performance...Nelsons makes the groping emergence of the first movement cohere with almost Beethoven-like purposefulness, and he brings out the balletic grace of the music.”
“Nelsons's conception of the first movement leaves nothing to chance. Sombre but never earthbound, the slow introduction leads seamlessly to a first subject whose fugitive progress is the more ominous for its understatement.”
“the Pathétique receives a deeply felt interpretation as painstakingly prepared as it is beautifully proportioned. Right from the outset, one cannot fail to be struck by the healthy sheen, tasteful refinement and infectious temperament displayed by the Birmingham orchestra...Nelsons is not afraid to cut loose when the music demands it...A Pathétique of considerable distinction, then, and it's preceded by a comparably winning account of Romeo and Juliet.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.