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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 (Pathétique)
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And I have a confession to make: I used to hate hate hate this CD. I held it up to ridicule as everything that's wrong with Bernstein. Now that classical maestros have gotten blander and blander, turning out identical, perfunctory, intellectually-lazy readings of the repertoire, the recording holds up much better, though I'm still not completely ready to drink the Kool Aid.
Bernstein approaches the first movement as a war between two themes or ideas or moods--the troubled first theme, which starts out tentatively and retreats, only to explode in volcanic fury and be extinguished, and the second theme, which is the more "feminine" theme that is very unsteady the first time around, and stronger and more self-assured in the recapitulation. Just listen to the two different ways Bernstein handles this theme--he's clearly thought this symphony through carefully, whether you agree with his conclusion or not.
I rather like his way with the first movement very much, with one notable exception: in the transition between the bombastic first theme and the return of the more floral second theme, there is a passage where the violins play a phrase and the trombones answer it and the violins play the phrase again lower and the trombones answer lower, etc. I'm writing this at work (don't tell my employer!Read more ›
I've always felt this Bernstein recording of the Tchaikovsky 6th to be the one that devastates the emotions. Ultimately, he sees the first three movements as a preparation for the last. At the end of the last movement, the despair is complete.
Bernstein, when choosing slower than normal tempos, never lacked inner rhythm. His slow tempos move like no other. His interpretation of the final movement is extremely slow and personal. Yet it seems right to me. So right, in fact, I'm unable to hear any other tempo for it, so convincing an end it is to this incredibly anguished work.
Probably no recording he made during those final years has engendered as much debate as this live 1986 recording of Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony (the "Pathetique"). The final symphonic utterance of Russia's greatest composer, the "Pathetique" is without question one of the most emotional outpourings in music history, normally taking 45-50 minutes to perform. On this particular recording, however, Bernstein really lets loose with the emotion, complete with tortured tempo, and brings the "Pathetique" to the finish line in just under an hour.
That this should spawn such a huge controversy is not too terribly surprising, given Bernstein's history of flamboyance on the podium. Nevertheless, this live recording with his New York Philharmonic is one of incredible skill; the orchestra handles his style well as they always did, even when the first and last movements are done incredibly slow. The explosive scherzo/march that is the third movement is done here in a massive outburst that perhaps Tchaikovsky himself would never have dreamed of.
Like him or hate him during his final years, Bernstein really brings out the most in the popular repertoire HIS way. And this recording is as solid proof of that as any he ever made.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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Bernstein's final recording of this symphony is the interpretation I had been searching for. Read more
when my husband played it, it was so soothing that it helped me to wind down after a hard day.Published on July 27, 2014 by utahrider
I have listened to this symphony several times since I bought it and experienced the performance live. Read morePublished on March 19, 2013 by Sam Steeles
I heard this on online radio years ago and knew I had to eventually get it. I have a version that has the best 2nd movement I ever heard. Read morePublished on November 26, 2012 by Corona
If you are looking for a classic interpretation of Tchaikovsky's 6th, this is not your product. Check out Mariss Jansons' version with the Oslo Philharmonic on Chandos. Read morePublished on November 8, 2012 by Mark Hancock