Mravinsky: Tchaikovsky - Symphonies no.4, 5, 6 "Pathetique" (2 CD, APE)
Mravinsky: Tchaikovsky - Symphonies no.4, 5, 6 "Pathetique" (2 CD, APE)

Orchestra: Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Yevgeny Mravinsky
Composer: Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 584 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc 1:
01. Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 – 1. Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima – Moderato assai, quasi Andante – Allegro vivo
02. Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 – 2. Andantino in modo di canzone
03. Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 – 3. Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato – Allegro
04. Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 – 4. Finale (Allegro con fuoco)
05. Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64 – 1. Andante – Allegro con anima
06. Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64 – 2. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza – Moderato con anima

Disc 2:
01. Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64 – 3. Valse (Allegro moderato)
02. Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64 – 4. Finale (Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace)
03. Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -“Pathétique” – 1. Adagio – Allegro non troppo
04. Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -“Pathétique” – 2. Allegro con grazia
05. Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -“Pathétique” – 3. Allegro molto vivace
06. Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -“Pathétique” – 4. Finale (Adagio lamentoso – Andante)

Earth-Shaking, Mind-Blowing

My mother always loved Tchaikovsky: the beautiful ballets and the Nutcracker. Those don’t prepare you for this presentation. What the other positive reviewers have written is true. This is really intense, emotional, and occasionally THUNDEROUS music. This is not music to eat dinner by or have in the background at a party. You want to be listening to this by yourself with the volume cranked up so that the crescendoes shake you to the core of your being. You can feel as if the music is totally engulfing and overwhelming you.

One can nitpick about certain things. These are old recordings, from 1960. So there is some tape distortion sound in certain quiet passages, basically in the 5th Symphony. There is tape hiss, although I don’t find it distracting. My wife plays oboe, and she says the wind section sounds a bit weak. But during the crescendoes, this orchestra is more powerful than anything I’ve heard in my 45 years. The sound is wonderfully full and “in your face.” I would like to emphasize that the quiet passages are done quietly and with feeling. One reviewer was saying they didn’t want a “martial Tchaikovsky” but that is not the case. These symphonies were simply done with tremendous, dazzling dynamic range. Mravinsky was a magician to be able to get his orchestra to play passionately, yet with great discipline and precision.

People have mentioned the pure Slavic, Russian-ness of these recordings. That does come through very strongly. This was an orchestra that was very isolated behind the Iron Curtain. Their instruments sound somewhat different and the playing is done a bit differently. Just a very uniquely intense, stark, and passionate sound that will never come around again. Sometimes I will be listening to this and think of Dr. Zhivago wandering the Russian hinterlands.

Deutsche Grammophon has recently put out another edition of this work with flowery cover artwork. I wish someone would come on here with a comparison of the two. I am wondering if DG tampered with the sound at all, or tried to clean up the quiet passages.

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