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Fritz Reiner had a well-earned reputation as uncompromising martinet. His may not be the ideal temperament for Tchaikovsky in all his moods, but Reiner's no-nonsense approach avoids any hint of emotional excess. There is undimmed spotlight on the virtuosity of the Chicago players, with brisk tempos and a slight feeling that Reiner has conducted the work once too often. Nothing is perfunctory but there is little affection. The Allegro non troppo of the first movement starts splendidly [listen -- track 1, 1:54-2:59]; if it tends to whip up a factitious excitement later on, Tchaikovsky can take it. The lopsided waltz has not quite the 'grazia' the composer demands. If it is undoubtedly eloquent, it is less than subtle [listen -- track 2, 1:41-2:33]. I was looking forward to the March above all; but here again Reiner, while achieving admirable clarity, is merciless in his quest for brilliance and panache [listen -- track 3, 7:46-8:40]. The last movement is therefore a relief and the orchestra, having sent its bassoon into infinite depths of unrelieved gloom, manages a passage of heartfelt balm that is for a moment anything but pathetic [listen -- track 4, 2:24-3:30].

Copyright © 24 December 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


Tchaikovsky: Pathétique Symphony

JMCXR-0021 XRCD Stereo 45'34" 1958 BMG, 2002 Victor Company of Japan Ltd

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Reiner, conductor

Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Symphony No 6 in B minor Op 74 'Pathétique'


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