Petrenko’s first release with the BPO shows a complete grasp of a masterwork

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 ‘Pathétique’, Op. 74

Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko (conductor)

I’m sure that David Mellor would have something to say about the length of Kirill Petrenko’s first release with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra which lasts a little short of three quarters of an hour. However my perspective is somewhat different¹ and I would hesitate to question the value of a recording and performance of such a high standard.

If you look for maximum emotional impact in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique this may not be the recording for you; look instead to either Mravinsky or more recently Currentzis for real intensity. What you get on this version is a great clarity. Having listened to this I feel that I know so much more about the inner detail of the work – who needs to sit with a score! Listen, for example, to the first movement where Petrenko holds the movement’s many rhythmic strands together perfectly whilst detailing the inner lines. The second movement is less dance-like than is usual and one feels there is a sense of subtlety about the playing. The third movement is uniquely thought through and conveys a sense of joviality. In the finale one cannot escape the sense of despair present in this movement but somehow in Petrenko’s hands it is rather dignified (though the muted horns certainly snarl) and it feels somewhat less suicidal than in many performances.

Overall this is a carefully thought out performance that shows a strong understanding of the overall structure of the piece and illuminates the work to an extent that I have not previously encountered. Remarkably this release is a combination of two consecutive live performances and the results achieved by the engineers are truly outstanding. It comes in the Berlin Philharmonic’s customary coffee table style and contains some interesting notes on Petrenko’s interpretation written by Malte Krasting. I have no hesitation in making this our CD of the Month and point out that it would make a fine contrast alongside Teodor Currentzis’ recent  Musicaeterna release.

This first outing on disc certainly bodes well for future offerings from the Berlin Philharmonic with Kirill Petrenko at the helm and I, for one, can hardly wait.

iClassical rating:

¹ I once purchased Kleiber’s famous recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on a full priced CD that was considerably shorter than the offering being considered here.