Anyone who wants to hear this tribute to the late, well-loved Charles Mackerras will have to get beyond Amazon's mislabeling. The Australian-born conductor was the last one whose career went back to the era of 78-rpm records; it was a long, fruitful span, although he lacked the touch of real greatness. A prolific recorder, Mackerras has 400 CDs currently in print, but only this one is of a Tchaikovsky symphony. Which means that you can approach the disc as a rarity or an anomaly - if he didn't record Tchaikovsky, there must have been good reason. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case.
This live 2009 performance is very well recorded by Signum, who have 14 concert recordings of the Philharmonia to date, making them the orchestra's alternative to starting their own house label (it was a mistake not to do that, as the impressive labels of the London Sym. and London Philharmonic make clear). Noting remarkable happens here, unless you consider it remarkable to drain the Pathetique of fervor, passion, and excitement. Given that Mackerras made a specialty of another volatile composer, janacek, the blandness of this reading comes as a surprise. The first movement suffers the most in that regard. The waltz goes smoothly, with the orchestra's accustomed refinement. The Scherzo is nimble when it should be electrifying. The finale substitutes melancholy for tragedy, not a good switch. There is a filler not noted on the jacket, consisting of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream Over., nicely played but with nothing remarkable happening.
In the end, I think a better tribute would have been to seek out stronger performances that would have captured Mackerras at his best. For such a tribute, look to the London Phil.'s release of a startlingly good Symphonic Variations by Dvorak.