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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 / Polonaise from Eugene Onegin

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi
  • Composer: Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (July 9, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B000003CTY
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,053 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan Majeska on April 28, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Christoph von Dohnanyi recorded Tchaikovsky's farewell opus in 1986 with the Cleveland Orchestra sounding terrific in Telarc's recording. I have read criticisms of this recording as being too cool and Classical, not "heart on sleeve" enough to serve Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique", but on listening to it, find it more than acceptable and quite fine. George Szell would have conducted this work as Dohnanyi did, had Szell recorded it. (Szell did record Tchaikovsky's Symphony 4 with the London Symphony for Decca, and Symphony 5 with the Cleveland Orchestra for Columbia: now Sony Classical).

Dohnanyi does not use excesses in nuance, slowing down or speeding up tempos, or other expressive devices to make points. He rather gets out of the way, and lets the Cleveland Orchestra play Tchaikovsky. I do not find Dohnanyi at all cold: he is just not the interpreter who puts his own personalized stamp on this piece, as did Bernstein (Sony, DG), Furtwangler (DG, Classica d'Oro), or Stokowski (RCA). (Bernstein and Furtwangler may be easier to find than Stokowski, which was released here in a multi disc set of his RCA recordings in the late 1990s but has since been deleted).

For those who prefer other conductors in Tchaikovsky's PATHETIQUE there are recordings of Ormandy (Sony), Bernstein (Sony or DG), Abbado/Vienna (DG: NOT the Chicago recording, on CBS), Ashkenazy (Decca), Furtwangler (DG: multi disc set; or CDO: historical mono recordings from ca. 1938), Wit (Naxos) and Slatkin (RCA). But you won't go wrong with Dohnanyi unless you insist on a more emotional, heart on sleeve recording.
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Format: Audio CD
Christoph von Dohananyi may not be the first name one associates with Tchaikovsky. He is after all the man who combined Webern with his recordings of Mozart Symphonies. But he is a man of refined tastes, and the Pathetique may take up the same place in his repertoire of limited Tchaikovsky as it did for Toscanini. One of the first things notable about this performance is the beautiful, rounded Romantic sound the Cleveland Orchestra makes in this repertoire. Dohnanyi has been candid about how Bohm and Karajan represent the conducting heritage he comes from, and certainly his ideal sound for this work is close to theirs. Another thing Dohnanyi was very proud of was what he called the Cleveland pianissimo, which is in striking evidence in the first and fourth movements. Despite the overall Romantic sensibility, Dohnanyi does not play around with tempi like Ormandy. This is as heartfelt an objective reading as one can imagine. The brass in the third movement do not overplay, which may not be to everyone's taste, but I like it. All in all, this is quite an engrossing reading of the Pathetique, as cosmopolitan in its sensibilities as Fritz Reiner's. The fill up from Eugene Onegin is excellent, and the sound engineering is full if somewhat opaque.
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It's fairly usual for reviews at Amazon to boil down to a random collection of subjetive impressions, which is certainly the case here. As a prospective buyer, I wouldn't have the foggist about Dohnanyi's "Pathetique" from 1986, quite early in his 18-year tenure with the Clevelanders. Is this reading robotic, cold, absent of interpretation, sleek, or European in its sophistication, as various reviewers claim? Sigh. Who would ever know?

To my ears it's unexpectedly powerful. Dohnanyi was often billed as an objectivist, but one member of the orchestra probably said it better when he described Dohananyi, from a player's perspective, as both unpredictable and manic-depressive. The side I'm most familiar with was too detached and restrained for my tastes, but in concert Dohnanyi was capable of letting himself go. That happens here in the climax of the first movement, where the impassioned brass choirs are much more on the rough than the sleek side. The movement as a whole has quite a lot of propulsiveness in it, although the opening, which should express an air of premonition, falls rather flat.

The second movement waltz is also powerful and passionate to a degree that surprised me -- this isn't quasi-Karajan glossiness or an elegant run-through. Emotion rises and falls in a gripping way. After decades of listening to the "Pathetique," it takes something special to get my attention in the Scherzo, which rolls out, mroe often than not, as a showpiece for virtuoso orchestras, of which Cleveland certainly is one. While admiring the orchestral richness, which is fully brought out by Telarc's sonics, the Gramophone complained that Dohnany's Tchaikovsky was "too easy, sweet and smooth." Yet this Scherzo is bumptious and loose-limbed, not overly refined.
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Format: Audio CD
Here's a fairly well balanced , songful Pathetique executed with technical aplomb. The first movement unfolds in grand style. The beauty, the urgency, the passages that blaze, the moments where rising and falling chords are juxtaposed, the quieter, reflective pauses---everything is characterized in virtually ideal fashion. Next, I've never heard a better played, more musical second movement waltz. The third movement march, I feel, should have been played more tightly and forcefully. In the final movement, Dohnanyi falls somewhat short in terms of plumbing the depths of despair. Again, as with the third movement, some intensity is missing. You don't really get the feeling of drive and fervor projected by Mravinsky. Overall, however, the level of play of the Cleveland Orchestra is consistently very fine and, to some extent, a nice compensating factor considering the partial voltage deficit in Dohnanyi's interpretation. Otherwise, both orchestra and conductor offer a solid account of the Polonaise from Eugen Onegin, a pleasant change from the commercially overexposed Romeo and Juliet. Sound of the recording is fine.
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