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Symphony No.2 [Hybrid SACD, SACD]

Mikhail Pletnev Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 16.27 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Conductor: Pletnev
  • Composer: Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (20 Aug 2012)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: Pentatone
  • ASIN: B007WB5DGG
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,611 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description


This is the penultimate release in Mikhail Pletnev's Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle with the Russian National Orchestra for PentaTone. The earlier issues have shown that in the main Pletnev is a persuasive guide through these works. Occasionally his predominantly safe approach to the later symphonies has, for some listeners, been characterised as lacking in visceral excitement - his coolness sometimes suggesting a lack of engagement with the music. Happily that is not the case here, and Pletnev's enthusiastic performance and superbly recorded account of this most loveable of Tchaikovsky symphonies can be recommended unreservedly . Tchaikovsky composed this symphony in 1872 but, in spite of a well received first performance the following year, he became dissatisfied with the work and substantially revised it seven years later. It is this later 1879 version that is almost always played today and which occupies the bulk of this SACD. We are, however, given the opportunity to experience some of Tchaikovsky's first thoughts with the rather ungenerous fill-up on the disc; a performance of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's original 1872 version of the score. Since Tchaikovsky also made alterations to both the work's scherzo and finale, it is a pity that the originals of these movements could not also have been included, particularly when the total playing time of the disc is a meagre 48' 12 . Nevertheless it is interesting to be able to compare the 1872 and 1879 first movements side by side. In the final analysis, however, it merely confirms that Tchaikovsky's decision to destroy the original score was probably a correct one. The sprawling movement found here compares unfavourably with the taut 1879 revision, though Pletnev and the RNO's committed performance does its best to convince us otherwise. That grumble apart, Pletnev directs an affectionate and unfussy reading of Tchaikovsky's engaging score and elicits thrilling playing from all sections of the RNO, who here are certainly on top form. Pletnev's tempi for each of the symphony's four movements are well chosen, uncontroversial and his account is free from mannerisms. Beginning with the symphony's opening horn solo, the phrasing of the Ukranian folk melodies with which this work abounds sound entirely idiomatic and are delivered with polished charm by these fine musicians . The 'Andantino marziale' has a delightful spring in its step, the 'Scherzo' is urgent yet retains a sparkle and balletic lightness throughout, while the finale is played with a driving no-holes-barred approach. The conductor's decision to begin the coda, that follows the huge tam-tam crash, at a slower tempo, then gradually speed up as he propels it furiously to the exciting final bars works really well. Though the recording of the Little Russian by Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on BIS Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 - Neeme Järvi is thoroughly recommendable, and even finds room to include three overtures in addition to the symphony, I find this Pletnev reading to be even more involving. A constant factor in this PentaTone cycle has been not only the exceptional playing of the RNO but the superb sound quality with which the Polyhymnia engineers have graced these recordings. The DZZ Studio 5 in Moscow provides an almost ideal acoustic for this music. All the instrumental lines are clearly delineated and a convincing orchestral image is created between the speakers. Elegant playing from the woodwind is beautifully captured as is the rasp of the weighty Russian brass section and the slam of the powerful percussion. All in all a marvellous disc! --Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and

I have known and loved Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony in c minor, Op. 17 for years. It is so familiar, in fact, that it is easy to conflate the various competing performances and come to the lazy conclusion that there is little difference between them, so long as they are well-played and sound grand and imposing. The difference becomes apparent only when you have a conductor and an ensemble as well-versed on their Tchaikovsky symphonies as are Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra. It is not fair to say that the Second Symphony just sits down and plays itself, despite the deceptive way in which its themes and the gorgeous variations on the same succeed one another with perfect naturalness. Much still depends on the conductor's touch in the matter of pacing, rhythmic emphasis, and the dynamic shadings that add so much to the expressive quality of this work. From the point of view of the orchestra, firmly focused tone and the willingness to play with abandon when the score requires it are essential requisites. From the evidence of this recording, Pletnev and the RNO really have it. As is well known, Tchaikovsky composed this symphony in the summer of 1872 while on vacation at his sister's estate in the Ukraine. He absorbed the native folk culture to such a degree that he used the melodies as many as five authentic Ukrainian folksongs in his new work, the most memorable of which are ''Down by Mother Volga'' in the opening movement and ''The Cranes'' in the rousing finale. That accounts for its popular nickname of the Little Russian Symphony. Tchaikovsky makes use of the ''Mother Volga'' melody first as a quiet elegiac melody in the horn at the very opening, and then in a number of attractive settings throughout the development. The finale builds in intensity throughout the variations on the ''Cranes'' theme until it ends in a whirlwind which Pletnev whips up with passion and abandon. In between, we have a wedding march-like Andantino Marziale and a helter skelter scherzo with a more relaxed trio in unusual 2/8 meter which Pletnev takes very nicely. It will be noted that there is no real slow movement here, a fact which throws major emphasis on the exuberant finale. As an extra, the program includes the seldom-heard original opening movement which Tchaikovsky revised in 1879-80 until it assumed the form we almost always hear (as on the present CD). Some of Tchaikovsky's contemporaries thought the original version was better, though when one finally has the chance to hear it, the rationale for the revision becomes clear. The original is over-developed and gets to the recap too belatedly. Despite the contention we often hear that the composer ''substituted a new set of themes'' in the revision, he actually did nothing of the sort but merely tightened up the structure, cutting about five minutes playing time. Though I miss a charming variant of the theme at about 9:00, I have to admit that the revised version is superior. If you wish to hear the ''Little Russian'' as it sounded in its 1872 premiere, just use your CD remote. --Dr Phil Muse (Atalanta Audio Society)

Product Description

Pletnev,Mikhail/Russian National Orchestra

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Luukas
Format:Audio CD
What can I say? This performance of Tchaikovsky's second symphony is marvelous, I've never heard so cool before! I bought short time ago Gergiev's recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphonies Nos. 1-3 (LSO Live) and Pletnev's recording is interesting point of reference. You can see below Gergiev's and Pletnev's tempi.

I. (11"59)
II. (7"15)
III. (5"35)
IV. (9"42)

PLETNEV (PentaTone)
I. (10"56)
II. (6"20)
III. (5"12)
IV. (9"19)

As you can see, Pletnev conducts faster than Gergiev. I love this performance! It is much better than Gergiev's, Karabits' (Onyx), Karajan's (DG), Järvi (BIS) or even Markevitch (Newton Classics). PentaTone's sound quality is stunning (specially in symphony's finale). There are real drive and real music making. Highly recommend, absolutely! Buy this SACD, right now, you don't lose your money. This is brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY 6 Jan 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
A wonderful performance and interpretation with recorded sound that is very top draw. Only one small grip, we could have had all the original symphony instead of just it's first movement as there was plenty of room on the disc. But don't let that put you off, go buy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 2; Pletnev; Pentatone 15 July 2012
By E. S. Wilks - Published on
Format:Audio CD
In Tchaikovsky's time, the Ukraine was called "Little Russia." Because Tchaikovsky used several Ukrainian folk melodies in this work, his Second Symphony, the critic Nicholas Kashkin nicknamed it the "Little Russian." Despite the fact that recording companies have traditionally neglected this symphony compared with the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies, there are plenty of recordings from which to choose.
The symphony exists in two versions; dissatisfied with the first version of 1872, Tchaikovsky revised the symphony in 1879. Most CDs offer the final version, although the 1872 version, conducted by Geoffrey Simon, is available on a CD. What makes this CD unique is that the 1879 version is offered, together with a fifth track that offers the 1872 version of the first movement. It is interesting to compare the two versions of the opening movement, originally called Andante sostenuto - Allegro comodo, but subsequently renamed Andante sostenuto - Allegro vivo and shortened from ca. 16 minutes to 11 minutes. To shorten a 16-minute movement to one of 11 minutes, Tchaikovsky pruned it drastically, and to me the revised version is the better of the two. The original contains material that seems to me to add little or nothing to the movement's overall structure and detracts from the momentum. Unlike the original (1869) version of "Romeo and Juliet," which is startlingly different from the 1880 version, there are, to my ear, no corresponding radical changes here, just removal of superfluous material.
This new version, by the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev, will surely please those who want to hear the original and revised versions of the first movement, plus the rest of the symphony, all on one CD. Don't let the strange album picture put you off; the recorded sound is first-rate.
Ted Wilks
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An elegant "Little Russian" captured in excellent sound 1 Oct 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format:Audio CD
No one was better placed to introduce the West to the Russian way with Tchaikovsky than Mikhail Pletnev. Besides being an eminent pianist, he became a cultural hero by founding a private orchestra, the Russian National, when government subsidies were collapsing after the fall of the Soviet Union. Western critics were hugely predisposed in is favor, but as things turned out, Pletnev wanted to deliver almost the opposite of Russian (i.e., Soviet) interpretations, aiming instead for a surface polish and poise that was much more reminiscent of the "internationalized" readings that were already standard fare. His DG cycle of the complete symphonies made no lasting impression, and now he has returned with essentially the same sleek style.

At least we have a clear-cut choice, given that other post-Soviet conductors vigorously define their readings as Russian - bold, emotionally wrought, intense, and colorful. Gergiev wound up setting the gold standard, but until next month we won't know what he has to say about the first three symphonies. That gives an opening for this beautifully recorded "Little Russian" Sym. to make an impression - and it does. (I listened in the usual two-channel stereo, not SACD.) Tchaikovsky's first three symphonies are problematic. They often seem more like ballet suites than anything else, and since he was a genius at ballet music, forcing these scores to live up to stricter standards of sonata form, development, and tight organization feels beside the point.

If you love the melodies first and foremost, here they are played gorgeously and rather gently for the first three movements. Tempos are lively; there's no attempt to make the music more important than t actually is. Pletnev focuses on charm, and a great deal is charming in the Tchaikovsky Second. the flowing first movement is lovely, despite its lack of attack. The second movement feels a bit genteel but as ballet music could hardly be prettier. The Scherzo is marked "very lively" (Molto vivace), which Pletnev overrides for a moderate pace, but it sparkles brightly. The finale, which begins with a stately processional that could easily be used as the entry for the king and queen in Sleeping Beauty, is done with suitable majesty, and the main Allegro vivo is quick on its feet and played with impressive precision.

There are few readings that solve all the problems of the "Little Russian" - we'll see if Gergiev has found the magic key - and since my favorite version, form Giulini on EMI, is decades old and in flawed sound, Pletnev's elegance scores well, at least as well as the usual recommendations like Dorati and Markevitch.

It's nice to have an unusual filler, the long, unpruned first movement as Tchaikovsky first wrote it. The familiar themes and orchestration remain the same, but four minutes in we begin to get a new, clipped syncopated theme, followed by a lyrical interlude that introduces more new material. This music isn't second rate, but it wanders and feels disconnected from the folk tune for solo horn that begins the movement. One can see why Tchaikovsky wanted to retain only the best parts of his original conception.
3.0 out of 5 stars A rational, thoughtful Second Symphony 27 Feb 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on
Format:Audio CD
In this newest cycle of Tchaikovsky symphonies from Maestro Mikhail Pletnev, we get another of his well-ordered if somewhat dispassionate readings of the works. Still, given the lyrical, song-filled nature of the Second Symphony, there is much to commend Pletnev's rational approach.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars High priced garbage 3 Oct 2013
By Ears 4U - Published on
Format:Audio CD
This is one of the first two Pentatone recordings I bought on account of all the hoopla surrounding this label (great sound, performances, etc.). They will be my last two. I feel so ripped off by this particular expensively priced CD (to be honest, the other one was better, but not by a wide enough margin to justify the cost). This "Little Russian" has all the passion of a block of moldy cheese, and does he stink! It's a good example of the fallout that's occurred from the huge corporate buyout, and subsequent demise, of the great classical music recording companies of our time - i.e. Decca, Phillips, and DG. Pletnev sounds like all the other jet setting and jet lagged rich conductors who have nothing new or interesting to say in this repertoire. The orchestra is bored throughout, so the Maestro tries to make up for a lack of inspiration by tossing out a hysterically sped up, get it over with quick type finally, but by then they've long lost us. Afterward, I couldn't bother myself with the original 1st movement that's also included. As for the much ballyhooed Pentatone sound, I can only speak as a 2 channel audiophile, with not a great, but a decent sounding system of Naim electronics & B & W speakers: The perspective of this recording is as if you are standing outside the hall, in the lobby! And a muddy haze shrouds every overloaded tutti. If Pentatone engineers are more concerned with surround sound, and can't do justice to 2 channels at the same time, a sticker should be affixed to the case stating NOT INTENDED FOR STEREO PLAYBACK. The old Decca sound, to say nothing of Mercury Living Presence (still the best in my opinion), blows this stuff away. And what's with the bizarre cover? Seriously, porcelain doggy and kitty figurines??? Must be symbolic of something, huh? Do yourself a favor and avoid this disappointing over priced krep.
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