ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Tchaikovsky - Symphonies

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PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY - Symphonies 4, 5 and 6 - Valery Gergiev (Conductor) - Mariinsky Orchestra - From Salle Pleyel in Paris - 822231851325 - DVD - 150 Minutes - Released: October 2011 - Mariinsky MAR0513

The North American release of this DVD production of the Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 6 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with the Mariinsky Orchestra under the direction of conductor Valery Gergiev, captured live at the Salle Pleyel in Paris in January of 2010, could not have been more timely. As a matter of fact, this month (October 2011) Gergiev and his band are touring the United States and Canada, performing some of the works on this DVD along with other works by Russian composers. So if you can't attend any of the concerts, you can get the Mariinsky Orchestra musicians to come and play in your living room. And even if you do catch one of the concerts, you can still bring the experience home.

Maestro Gergiev has long been considered one of the best exponents of this most emblematic of Russian composers, and these concerts from Paris certainly help to reinforce that reputation. The opening movement of the Symphony No. 4 alone demonstrates that this conductor has a profound understanding of everything that is Tchaikovsky. The heroic, the tragic, the picturesque, and in particular the hyper-lyrical aspects of this composer shine through from every corner of the orchestra under his guidance. Add to this the fact that the Orchestra of The Mariinsky Theatre, which used to be known as The Kirov during the Communist era, originated way back in 1783 and is now into its 229th season and boasts an impressive history including première performances of operas and ballets from Verdi and Tchaikovsky himself. It's a combination of factors that in itself creates a force to be reckoned with, and has intimidated many contenders to this repertoire.

We all know what a rousing experience the last few minutes of the 4th Symphony can be, and what physical demands it imposes on all of the orchestral players. Well these musicians deliver a thrilling experience without even working up a sweat. This music is in their DNA. They are a pleasure to watch in action, as every slide of the bows, every lift of the horns, every cymbal crash, is executed with the precision of military manoeuvres, but all accomplished with a level of expressive power that belies the mechanics of it all. A case in point is the beautiful french horn solo in the second movement of the 5th Symphony, delivered here with passion and a sound resembling that of a Russian baritone. The solo bassoon against a backdrop of double basses in the opening pages of the 6th Symphony is yet another well captured moment. The camera work in this production is also a predominant factor in the overall quality of this release. The shots from cameras high above suspended from the ceiling, the panning shots of the whole orchestra, and the precisely timed close-ups of particular instrumentalists or the conductor himself, all lend to create the effect of being there and reliving the music through centuries of tradition. Even the facial expressions of the players demonstrate that these musicians are passionate about this music, and dedicated to delivering the conductor's vision of these great masterworks.

So if your city is on the list of dates for their North American tour and you can't attend the concert, there's no need to panic. Just get this DVD and live the experience at home.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2011