This is without a doubt the finest recording of the Pathetique ever made. In Pletnev's hands, the music flows naturally and the climaxes are extremely powerful. Indeed, he brings out all the pathos in this great symphony. Just listen to the violent development section of the first movement to witness this drama for yourself; the way Pletnev brings out the climax is simply unsurpassed. The second movement is very beautifully played as well, although there's nothing special about it which sets it apart from other recordings. Pletnev then takes the third movement at a death-defying speed. Indeed, no conductor has ever played this movement at such a rapid tempo, but Pletnev allows the listener to feel a sense of impending doom Tchaikovsky must have felt when writing this movement. This is simply the most exciting performance of this famous march ever committed to record. The fourth movement is also outstanding in terms of bringing out the pathos inherent in this work, although Pletnev does not quite match Mravinsky in sheer power of the brass in the closing pages. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that this performance of the Pathetique is a desert island disc and would be a top recommendation even if it cost far more. In fact, the Penguin Guide to CDs has given this recording the highest possible rating (three stars plus a rosette). The sound throughout is wide-ranging and is in the demonstration bracket, although it is true that you'll have to turn up the volume a notch from other CDs due to the wide range.
If the only thing you were getting on the CD was the symphony, it would be a "must have" any day of the year. However, Virgin is extremely generous and includes outstanding performances of the Seasons and excerpts from the Sleeping Beauty (arranged and played by Pletnev on piano). Marche Slav is also included as an apt coupling to the symphony and is an exciting performance, though the closing minutes are not as spectacular as some other performances, notably that conducted by Erich Kunzel on Telarc. But for two CDs at the cost of one MID-PRICED CD, and one of the most legendary performances ever, everyone needs to have these precious discs in his or her collection, whether you like the couplings or not.