Tchaikovsky
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)
Francesca da Rimini, Op.32
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi

Recorded January 2004 (Pathétique) and September 2003 in Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden
CD No: BIS-SACD-1348 (CD/SACD)
Duration: 69 minutes
Reviewed: October 2004
This isn’t quite the dark and dramatic account anticipated of the Pathétique to launch BIS’s Tchaikovsky cycle from the Gothenburg Symphony and Neeme Järvi. It is though a spontaneous and unusually well integrated version, one that could be accused of playing down the emotionalism of the music if certainly not lacking in power and detail. The first movement is almost classical in its integrity, although the closing brass chorale is curt, and the Waltz second movement may be thought a little brusque despite some warm-toned playing and nicely shaded dynamics.
There’s no doubting the committed response from the Gothenburg Symphony or the excellent recording quality that equably marries glow, depth of perspective, and clarity. What does trouble is the ease with which Järvi glides through the music. It is finely considered in one sense but lacks searing identification with Tchaikovsky’s inner conflicts. Maybe, by design, Järvi is playing down a programme and consciously revealing the work as a ‘real’ symphony. Having turned the ‘Waltz’ without artifice, Järvi parades the succeeding ‘March’ as the usual romp; exciting certainly and potently built if rather too ‘straight’. However, the attacca into the valedictory finale, not requested by Tchaikovsky, is very effective, and it’s here that one registers human tragedy more fully, without indulgence or mawkishness, the climax ignites and the closing bars lament.
Francesca da Rimini follows after a suitably long period of silence (top-class production values), the recording placing the orchestra slightly more remote than in the symphony, the violins sounding diffuse at times. Järvi has too much control of the storm-tossed passages, vividly sounded though, and is without the potency of Barbirolli (EMI/Dutton) and Rozhdestvensky (DG). The lyrical middle section, with a beautifully played clarinet solo, is rather too brassy come the climax, although Järvi doesn’t sensationalise the music, and the coda is properly annihilating; once again, Järvi has played the long game to memorable effect.

 

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