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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 6 June 2013
I rarely write a review - a bit lazy I guess. And I have never ever written one without being asked to ...... until now. I have been listening to Tchaikovsky for over half a century and have never understood why so many people turn their noses up at him. Well they wouldn't if they listened to this set. I bought it two days ago and I am already on my second run through of the whole thing. It has simply blown me away. The sound, the tone, the tempi, the passion, all are amazing. Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra conduct/play as if the music is not on the printed page but in their soul. I have never been so moved by any recording of anything in my life. I just had to share all this with someone, hence the review. And I haven't even mentioned what a bargain price it is because it would still be worth getting if it cost several times as much.
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on 24 January 2011
Having been brought up listening to recordings of Tchaikovsky under various venerable conductors who have treated his music in the mega-hyper-Romantic tradition has meant that for me, here is a composer to whom I have never really warmed - good tunes but a touch too much self-indulgence and self-pity to be really healthy! I suspect I am not the only person who finds this side of Tchaikovsky's output a touch annoying....

In a similar vein, as a symphonist, Tchaikovsky had a tendency to compose with one ear on The Ballet. It means that his music has the life force that makes it dance, but as far as the symphonic argument is concerned - the type of logic in a work that makes me prefer the likes of Brahms or Dvorak as contemporary symphonists - Tchaikovsky tended to put less emphasis on this aspect.

Time to listen afresh, then, and Pletnev's recordings are ideal for that purpose. He emphasises the classicism and the light-footed Mendelssohnian side of Tchaikovsky's music, and it is endearing. Rarely does Pletnev really let the self-indulgent side escape - the exception, rightly so, being in the Pathetique - but line and coherent symphonic character are very clear. The music still dances, but it is controlled. The music is allowed to speak for itself. This is still big-band Tchaikovsky, but without the syrup!

In addition to the six numbered symphonies, DGG have included the "seventh" of the canon, Manfred (more a giant symphonic poem than a symphony to me - no harm in that of course), plus virtually all of Tchaikovsky's other works for orchestra (including a fabulously entertaining and vibrant performance of that most hackneyed piece, the 1812 Overture), all in fantastic performances and furnished with top-drawer recorded sound. These have been available on a DGG Trio, and if you have that , sadly that could mean duplication. Oddly, though, the early and atypical Overture in F is not included in this set - it was on the Trio, and could easily have been included here. An oversight on DGG's part?

Listening to this set has made me revisit some of my older recordings, and it has made them sound better! Hearing a fine conductor treat these works as symphonies pure and simple makes one listen for the symphonic in the big "statement" interpretations. Pletnev's recordings have shown me that Tchaikovsky was indeed a fine symphonist, not just a ballet composer who wrote a few big orchestral pieces. So if you don't like Tchaikovsky, give these recordings a go - they might win you over too!
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on 1 March 2012
I heard Pletnev long ago during my visit to Moscow and was positively surprised by his interpretation of Tchaikovsky works. I sometimes think, if you can link a conductor to a certain composer, then I couldn't imagine Pletnev without Tchaikovsky. Few words to this compilation. The sound quality is amazing, the CD is well balanced and remastered. The performance of the orchestra is terrific, the instruments feel so real, precise and vivid that I sometimes felt like being attending the live concert. I agree that some movements in the symphonies feel pretty much like ballet music, but this is what makes Tchaikovsky so special. He is different from other romantic composers, because he was from Russia and this influences his music a lot. If you want to undertake a journey to Russia through classical music you should buy this box.

Few words to the content. The box contains 7 CDs and a booklet in 3 different languages, all CDs are placed in the normal white papersleeves, nothing special, it could be better, but doesn't bother me as long as the quality of CDs is high.

One more important and very positive fact at the end. I ABSOLUTELY admire those people who produced these CDs and made use of ALL AVAILABLE SPACE. For this price you don't get only symphonies, you also get lots of beautiful extra pieces, which are wonderfully listed on the amazon website. An absolutely great value and therefore a definite buying suggestion. I am sure you won't regret it.
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on 10 January 2012
This is a brilliant box set of some of the most wonderful pieces of music the world will ever know... Firstly, they are beautifully played and are on their own separate discs (which is very rare in this day and age where you can get 2 Symphonies squeezed on to one disc and so on... )and they are complimented with many wonderful overtures including the "Capriccio Italien" and "Romeo and Juliet". To cap it all we are given the splendid "Manfred Symphony" too....What a box of Gems.
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on 17 July 2016
The orchestral playing is extremely virtuosic, from inward ppp to the loudest passages with striking brass; and it is very well recorded, delivering the full spectrum of sound in detail yet with massive weight in the climaxes. The Penguin Guide praised the tone poems but not the symphonies (except for no. 6 apparently). It singled out no.1 for the harshest treatment mainly the rather slow and dreamy first movement. I don't agree. After listening to it I put on the widely acclaimed Jurowski performance and found the opening almost rushed in comparison. Indeed Jurowski tends to be consistently quicker in the other symphonies too. Symphonies 2 and 3 are not the greatest Tchaikovsky but the refined playing and interpretation cannot be seriously faulted. Symphony 4 is very refined but not cold at all. Pletnev delivers a different kind of Romanticism from, say, Gergiev, but it is Romantic nevertheless. Symphony 5 reminded me of the Gergiev Vienna performance and in 3 of the 4 movements the timings are within two or three seconds of each other. In the first movement of no.6 Pletnev delivers an overwhelming climax which is quite unforgettable. Although the detail and refinement is apparent throughout throughout this generous set of the symphonies and tone poems, just occasionally at the expense of spontaneity, the climaxes are all fully delivered. Less gruff and edgy than Gergiev I feel Pletnev is more consistent in his sensitive view of the composer. Unlike Gergiev he never slips over into mere violence. The challenginges are all inward though fully realised. All in all this set is wonderful value and well worth having, whatever other versions you may have. A great set to live with. Thanks to the other reviewers who made me aware of these recordings.
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If you want great performances of Tchaikovsky's major orchestral works at a bargain price look no further. Pletnev has always excelled in Tchaikovsky in my opinion and these interpretations are first class. Of course you can always find individual performances of pieces that are better than those you find in a set BUT if you want everything you won't go wrong with these. Anyway these are so cheap you can afford to have them and other versions too. (The Litton set is also excellent Tchaikovsky - Symphonies)
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on 30 August 2012
I have always rated Muti's set of the Tchaikovsky symphonies as without equal. Now along comes this sensational box from DGG and gives me pause for thought. These performances give a valid alternate reading to Muti's (or vice versa) featuring stunning playing and engineering. DGG can be truly proud of this achievement. I never was good at splitting hairs so just let me say that I can't be without one or the other. Music making from the heights of Olympia. BUY NOW!!!
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on 16 July 2015
Possibly the main direct competitor to this, being another recent, modern set, would be Jansons on Chandos, and on first listening, much of what Jansons does seems impressive. But I immediately fell in love with at least one of Pletnev's performances--the first symphony, "Winter Dreams"--and that ultimately didn't happen for me with any symphony in the Jansons set.

Jansons,in the first movement of the 1st, 'Journey on a Wintry Road,' makes the music seem rather trite and sing-songey, whereas with Pletnev there is a much deeper atmosphere that communicates the 'dreaminess' of the symphony's title. (Jansons' 'Journey,' however, is not nearly as frenetic or nervous as the ones you'll hear with other conductors such as Mehta or Maazel--there must have been wolves nipping at their heels on that winter road.)

In the 4th, Jansons may seem more impressive at first, but for me there are some interpretive blunders (which I also hear in the 5th and the Manfred) that throw a wrench in the works. At the very climax of the 1st movement, when the music should move directly and powerfully to its conclusion, to communicate the inexorability of the drama, Jansons instead inserts an ungainly pause and tempo change. The result is to interrupt the momentum of the music at this most crucial point, weakening the effect of the entire movement. Pletnev's occasionally plain-on-the-face-of-it but more deeply understanding approach works better for me both here and throughout the entire set, and it may grow on you with time.

Jansons is well recorded, but listening to this and some of his other recordings, I can't help but wonder if the acoustics are less than ideal where his orchestra performs, as the sound seems slightly less open and more congested than would be ideal. That was very true in his Rachmaninov 1st but less so here.

Pletnev enjoys basically beautiful recording quality. Spacious and resonant, with rich, burnished string sound and floating woodwinds.
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on 18 October 2013
Can't add much to what has already been said here. Pletnev extracts inspired and sometimes electrifying performances from the players - as only a Russian conductor & orchestra playing Russian music can. Also, full marks to the recording engineers. They've brought out the best of the ambient acoustics and those with a penchant for the percussion will be thrilled to bits!
I first came across Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra back in 1995 when the BBC aired the 'Pathetique' one morning (this had recently been released). I managed to tape it in it's entirety and it has given me much pleasure over the years. At the time, the recording was achieving rave reviews - like the other pieces now in this collection, deservedly so.
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on 29 January 2015
Very good sound and lively interpretations from Pletnev and the Russian National. If you don't already own a full set of Tchaikovsky's symphonies, then this is well worth acquiring. Excellent value for money, if you take into consideration the 'extras' that come with the symphonies themselves.
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