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Customer Review

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Minority Report, 24 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 "Pathétique" (Audio CD)
Well here goes another Minority Report. Let's hire a lorry to collect the Unhelpfuls.

I am not going to bother overly with the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. Subjectivity is king. With eleven exceptions . . . . . I find them to be the most over-recorded works in the repertoire. Tell me: is there anyone out there who really gets their jollies from these two humdrum and noisy works? Is there anything more banal in the world than the Finale of the Fifth? It's mindlessness in its purest state.

To my mind, symphony-wise, the Pathetique is Tchaikovsky's calling card on Eternity.

Over time, Herbie repeatedly went back to the well to measure himself against this colossal work. This 1976 performance is a high-powered reading which the DG engineers captured faithfully enough in the dreaded Philharmonie (though the bassoon is nebulous at the start of the finale). I can well imagine that come its closure, there were slaps on the back all round. Coffees and biscuits awaited in the foyer. Herbie chatted to a few musicians and cronies before buggering off in his Porsche. All in all, it was an excursion into excellence. That's about it.

Contrast is offered by the earlier performance from September 1971 on EMI (Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 'Pathetique'). It was recorded in the Jesus Christus Church so the sound is better aerated. Come its closure, the musicians and the conductor must have looked at one another in amazement and alarm: what in the hell have we just unleashed? Are we safe?

In 1976, the listener is treated to a `meridian' performance of the Sixth by virtuosos at the top of their game.

In 1971, all and sundry `bet the house'. Every chip is in the middle. Oblivion sits on the other side of the table. The endgame is not in doubt.

If you live long enough, sooner or later you will lose all your loved ones. Like Billy Bones and the Black Spot in Treasure Island, encountering this Sixth could be an omen.

For what they are worth, the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies are more intense in 1971 too.

If you are looking for something more than mere virtuosity, go the Red Label rather than Yellow in this instance.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Sep 2014 12:23:14 BDT
geoff b says:
I must write to say I always find your reviews witty,interesting, informative,infuriating and sometimes incomprehensible!Keep up the good work!By the way I love Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies-there's no accounting for taste!

Posted on 26 Sep 2014 20:06:03 BDT
Geoff - thank yo for the kind comment. I am grateful. And if you like T4 & T5 more than what I do, all power to you!

Best wishes, B

Posted on 19 Dec 2014 05:00:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Dec 2014 05:02:47 GMT
Thanks B. for the safe, and of course another witty, passage through Herbie's struggle to descency in Tchaikovsky's most troubled works, namely those on the red label instead those on the the yellow.

All the best and happy holidays,

Cor.
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

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