Monday, 13 February 2017

Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra are on absolutely top form concluding a Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle that must rank amongst the very best on this new release from Onyx

Last July,Onyx Classics issued thrilling performances of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies 1, 2 and 5 from Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra .

To conclude Petrenko’s Tchaikovsky symphony cycle Onyx  have just released another 2 CD set containing Symphonies 3, 4 and 6.

ONYX 4162

CD1 opens with Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Op. 36 where the brass sound out vividly in the opening Andante Sostenuto, beautifully paced, growing organically with some fine individual instrumental touches, particularly from the woodwind. Later there is a dangerously slow tempo that nevertheless works perfectly, bringing a mesmerising moment, contrasting wonderfully when the music quickly picks up in tempo and dynamics. There is some wonderfully incisive playing, bringing tremendous excitement, a real sense of urgency developing, culminating in some very fine string playing.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic achieve some lovely sonorities in the Andantino in modo di canzona as Petrenko beautifully moulds and shapes the music. There are some exquisite woodwind passages blossoming out of the orchestral texture as the music slowly and subtly builds, as well as some rich textures from lower strings, with slower passages finding a withdrawn beauty.

There follows a simply superb Scherzo - Pizzicato ostinato. Allegro with the theme launched by the pizzicato strings in some terrific playing, wonderfully nuanced before the Allegro brings some very fine, virtuosic woodwind and more terrific pizzicato passages before a particularly fine coda.

There is no lack of dynamism in the opening of the Finale - Allegro con fuoco with Petrenko and the RLPO providing an underlying sense of tension before whipping up quite a storm with some simply stunning playing. They build much tension and passion before hurtling to a stunning coda.

This is as fine a Tchaikovsky Fourth as you are likely to hear.

The Moderato assai (Tempo di marcia funebre) of Symphony No. 3 in D Major 'Polish' Op. 29 emerges with great sensitivity and subtlety before rising to move more incisively forward, through some very fine passages, shot through with Tchaikovsky’s wonderful orchestration, vividly revealed by the RLPO where they bring pin point accuracy.  Some wonderfully dramatic, incisive passages are built, shot through with moments of exquisite melodic beauty.

There is a light and perfectly paced Alla Tedesca (Allegro moderato e semplice) with a balletic opening, so wonderfully poised. The orchestra weave some wonderful passages for woodwind and strings, beautifully done.

The Andante elegiaco of Symphony No. 3 opens Disc 2 with fine textures from the woodwind and Petrenko a real Slavic nostalgia, slowly growing as the lovely melody expands, finding a greater urgency. This conductor shapes the music quite wonderfully with so many fine details revealed before the beautifully atmospheric coda.

There is a quicksilver, beautifully transparent Scherzo - Allegro vivo with such light textures, beautifully laid out, rising through some fine little peaks before the Finale - Allegro con fuoco (Tempo di Polacca) opens purposefully, pushing ahead powerfully and incisively. There are some very fine development passages and a wonderfully subtle forward drive before a perfectly balanced central section, finely controlled. Petrenko and his players take us through some lovely passages where Tchaikovsky weaves a terrific orchestral canvas, culminating in a brilliant coda.

This is certainly a really very fine Tchaikovsky Third.

Finally we arrive at the Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, 'Pathétique' Op. 74. How does one approach this tremendous work? It is obvious that Petrenko has this music in his soul, finding a way to avoid an overblown rush through this wonderful score.

The Adagio – Allegro non troppo rises out of darkness as the music tries to rise. It finds a light and fleet forward movement yet just hear how Petrenko maintains an underlying nervous tension as the music develops and rises up. Slowly the big tune emerges, restrained and laden with emotion, alleviated by moments where the woodwind emerge,  breaking out into more excitable passages that bring a tremendous emotion and energy, all the more impactful after the restraint that went before. Petrenko moves the music through passages laden with feeling, bringing waves of emotion so when the coda arrives Tchaikovsky seems to have exhausted himself.

But no, what follows in the Allegro con grazia has a lovely rhythmic swirl with a natural forward movement that, nevertheless, seems to subtly gain a nervous tension. Petrenko shows just how to shape this music as he allows the music to fall gently back to a quiet, restrained coda.

The Allegro molto vivace scurries ahead full of nervous energy through which the main theme emerges, rising in drama before the theme is heard fully. There is more superb playing from the RLPO revealing more of Tchaikovsky’s fine orchestration with so many lovely, finely controlled details. The music rises again, spectacularly as the theme now pushes confidently ahead, Petrenko and the RLPO bringing a real incisiveness and weight to a tremendous conclusion.

The Finale - Adagio lamentoso enters with a passionate appeal from the strings soon followed by a melancholy string passage that rises again, wonderfully caught here. Petrenko knows just how to capture the depth of Tchaikovsky’s emotional state. The strings of the RLPO are on tremendous form as the music rises and falls through an ever fluctuating mixture of emotions before rising to a terrific peak. There is a passage of desolate beauty before the music falls through the most despairing of moments to the hushed coda.

This is one of the most affecting Tchaikovsky Sixth’s I have heard. 

Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra are on absolutely top form concluding a Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle that must rank amongst the very best. They are exceptionally well recorded at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, UK and there are useful notes from Jeremy Nicholas.

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