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CD Review

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

  • Symphony #4 in F minor, Op. 36
  • Symphony #6 in B minor, Op. 74, 'Pathétique'
Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire/Erich Kleiber
Testament SBT2-1352 2CDs 84m ADD
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Erich Kleiber left a somewhat sparse discography but each of his recordings commands some sort of attention as are these Tchaikovsky symphonies dating from post war Decca sessions with the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire. One immediately notes the excellent Decca remastering, in particular with regards to the exquisitely honed French woodwind sound.

I greatly enjoyed this superb 'Pathétique' with Kleiber definitely stamping his own indistinguishable imprint on this great work. The expansive First movement is wonderfully controlled and extremely buoyant with the main themes given their due without making them sound overtly bombastic. The sense of loss and despair in the Finale is quite shattering and the Paris orchestra really give their all for Kleiber.

The earlier Fourth Symphony (recorded in 1948) is somewhat sedate but there is no lack of passion or bite in the Finale whilst the Andantino is most beautifully played with the French orchestra again showing wonderful commitment. There are other higher voltage performances in this work and Muti, Maazel or the irrepressible Sanderling come to mind but this is otherwise a fine performance.

Testament is offering the two-disc set for the price of one although that is understandable as the playing time is just over 80 minutes. A fine testament to a conductor who passed away a bit too early to reap the benefits of more advanced recording techniques.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech