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Reviews: Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Francesca da Rimini - Neeme Järvi

Reviews: 6

Site review by flyingdutchman November 3, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:  
After listening to this about 5 times, I feel I can now give my thoughts on the matter. It is generally accepted that whenever a conductor comes to a work they have some idea how they want to conduct it. I'm sure Jarvi came to the Tchaikovsky 6 with some previous conceptions on how to proceed. I'm also sure the Gothenberg SO have recorded this in concert perhaps too numerous to count. Perhaps that is the problem with this recording. We have an ensemble that comes into the work with pre-set ideas and a full knowledge of how to play the notes. Jarvi leads the group and hits all the right notes. What's missing though is a sense of heart. Its a runthrough performance, but there is nothing to say it is better than what has come before it.

We have a clear idea where Mravinsky or Pletnev (virgin) wanted to go with this (manic and yet controlled--on the verge of loss of control) or Bernstein (DG) where the notes are drenched in such gut-wrenching pathos there is not much else. Jarvi, on the other hand, gives us no clear idea what he wants to do with the piece. Artificial is one word to describe it and to that point I agree.

Soundwise, I felt the orchestra was recorded well. However, there is a sense of not allowing the orchestra to breath-such little air around the instruments. Sound was somewhat claustrophobic.

So, I merely give the performance an average score and the sonics a slightly above average score.

Review by peteyspambucket July 5, 2004 (4 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
For me, this was an eagerly awaited release. I have enjoyed Neeme Jarvi's interpretations of Sibelius, and I thought there would be something special with his way about Tchaikovsky. I am somewhat disappointed by this release. Of course, these are my first impressions, and I may re-edit this review at a later date, should my views change after more listenings.

As always, the interpretation comes first. I found the 6th to be a very boring performance without anything that speaks to me, and with a lot of odd tempi changes and phrasing. It's obvious that this is how he meant it to sound, but I didn't enjoy it. Not even the usually thrilling 3rd movement did my pulse raise with excitement. The lack of heart spent on the longeurs of the last movement had me completely cold by the end of the symphony.

Sadly, the Francesca di Rimini, which is one of my absolute favorite Tchaikovsky works, falls flat too. It's not quite lyrical enough or demonic enough in the parts that need those qualities.

With regard to sound, you will be in for a treat. The sound is excellent, and the orchestral balance is somewhat close, which I like very much. Unfortunately, when you capture a boring performance in great sound, it just sounds... well... BORING.

Sorry. I really wanted to like this SACD more, but I can't recommend it. The low score reflects the fact that I wouldn't want a new listener to this music to think that this is how the piece goes. This one is only for Jarvi fans, not Tchaikovsky fans.

For reference, my favorite Tchaikovsky 6th's in no particular order: Ormandy, Szell, Mravinsky, Karajan, Levine, Svetlanov. And my favorite Francesca's: Svetlanov (on an ancient VOX cassette that I'll never get rid of until I can replace it on CD!), Mravinsky

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Review by Chris July 6, 2004 (9 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have to say that I certainly disagree with the earlier review of this stunning disc.
Ok, it may not be quite the equal of the old Leningrad Mravinsky, early sixties DGG LP version as far as the interpretation is concerned.
That one is still the classic against which all newcomers have to be compared IMO.But for all the "white heat" and pathos of that old gem there are more rough edges there than there are from Järvi and his excellent Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.The only thing that bothered me here was a maybe not quite perfect string entry at the beginning of the third movement. Otherwise everything is there and played close to perfection.The filler Francesca da Rimini is also very good and at the beginning of it I closed my eyes and felt like I was sitting in my favourite seat in the splendid Gothenburg Concert Hall.
This SACD is far from boring,and the sound ,well the sound is probably the best I've so far heard from any pure DSD SACD.
I know the acoustic of the Concert Hall in Gothenburg fairly well having heard lots of concerts live there, and this recording is one of the most realistic recordings I've heard from there.Yes it is quite a close sound, similar to the sound Channel Classics gave us on their recent Rachmaninov disc.But although that disc is excellent by any standards,this one is even better!!!
From the slightest pp whisper to the full force of powerful fortissimos,everything is clean, clear, open and above all very realistic, without any signs of congestion whatsoever.Strings are velvety, never sound hard or "digital" and everything is heard in a coherent acoustic.
This is high res sound at its very best IMO.
Not to be missed.

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Review by andrewb October 30, 2005 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is an excellent but very different account of the Pathetique Ė it does not have the intense emotion of any of my other versions: what it does have is a musical unity where each section and movement is seamlessly woven together in a manner that I have not heard before. There are many very fine versions of this symphony, Karajanís BPO, Pletnev and Franck are in my collection, each of these will sear the heart more than Jarviís account at the climatic moments but none offers such an architecturally integrated performance as his. In other accounts I have always found the second movement to lose the impetus of the symphony, original though this limping waltz is, for me it often drags: with Jarvi its seems to naturally progress from the end of the first movement and does not outstay itself. Likewise the third movement naturally progresses the symphony to its last movement. The finale of this recording, for me, has a beautiful grief, leaving a feeling of warm sadness.

The refusal of Jarvi to over indulge in the pathos has produced a musically satisfying account which one can hear many times: unlike more intense accounts which can make repeated hearings difficult because of the excess emotion they attempt to evoke.

It is easy to understand why this recording has resulted in some very negative opinions, it is so different to the traditional approach, the performance was not what I expected when I first played the disc. If you believe that the Pathetique can only be performed with an unflinching, passionate and all consuming intensity then do not buy this disc but if you can accept an alternative approach where warmth, beauty and musical integration are put above the emotional climaxes then try this. This perspective is not necessarily better, just another way, I will still play and enjoy discs that offer the former style.

The recording quality is superb, although I have not yet heard it in multichannel form; it gives a glorious stereo image, probably better than at a live concert, and gorgeous sound.

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Review by DonJo July 11, 2010 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A huge disappointment, performance-wise. Disappointment turned to disgust at how Jarvi handled the first movement: quick, rushed playing that is totally devoid of passion. Was he in a rush to get to the train station or something? Or did he just want to get the recording over and done with? A total waste of money.

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Review by jeffreybehr May 31, 2011 (1 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I've been looking for a great-sounding and strongly played Tchaik. 6 this summer; this isn't it. The MC sound is OK, altho the hall sounds a little small to me.

What dissapoints me about this performance is the same thing that appeals to others--it's played too casually--too unemotionally. I was disappointed at the somewhat speedy tempos in the first movement and the underplaying of connective phrases, and those characteristics pervaded the entire performance.

I'm not claiming that this is a bad performance; it obviously works well for lots of us, but it's definitely not for those of us who love our Romantic-period music played strongly. My preference is Kitajenko's with the Gurzenach on OEHMS, #OC 666.

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