Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Kitajenko
Oehms Classics OC 667
Classical - Orchestral
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, Pique Dame Overture
Dmitrij Kitajenko (conductor)
OehmsClassics now continues its SACD series with the Gürzenich Orchestra and its honorary conductor Dmitri Kitayenko with a release of Tchaikovsky‘s Fifth Symphony.
The program, recorded in March 2011 in Cologne, is rounded out by the „Pique Dame“ Overture. The first two CDs in the series (Manfred and Symphony No. 6) received outstanding reviews from the international press.
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Review by John Miller - January 15, 2012
With a freshly-minted Manfred Symphony, a deeply moving and powerful Pathétique and now a superb Fifth under their belt, Kitajenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra seem to have their Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle off to a flying start. Under their Honorary Conductor's baton the Gürzenich players produce a distinctive sound which suits Tchaikovsky's style very effectively. The strings have a clean, saturated sound with precision articulation, and are blessed with particularly fine bass section which is deep and powerful, propelling rhythms and underpinning the whole ensemble. A particularly delightful feature is the wind section, whose instruments have distinctive, characteristic tones to enrich solos and ensembles, compared with the often bland wind sections in some other great orchestras these days. The brass, so important in the Tchaikovsky symphonies, are crisp, brilliant and well-nalanced. Playing all together, the interior balancing by the players. conductor and recording engineers gives a rare transparency, allowing often un-noticed score details to be heard.
The Fifth is a very difficult symphony for conductors, as Tchaikovsky's symphonic technique involves the use of many short melodic cells, with colourful repetitions mostly taking the part of true symphonic development. Kitajenko, however, manages to make the many changes in tempo, dynamics and emotional strength of the first and last movements (which are almost mirrors in form) sound seamless and inevitable in their progression. All the dynamics found in the score are carefully observed, so the changes from ppp to fff register fully, adding to the stark contrasts in each movement. Tempi are judicially chosen so that the temperature and pace of the music is fully allowed to develop, and the steady, totally committed playing of the orchestra is heard to its best.
The Fifth's slow movement, beginning with a quietly modulating sequence of string chords (similar to those at the opening of Dvorak's New World Symphony), features a wonderful solo melody which is a gift to first horn players, although its slowness, softness and total exposure must be terrifying. The player is not named, but the solo is quite beautifully nuanced, and later it blends with the piquant wind solos to delightful effect. The third movement waltz, perfumed and seductive as can be, is enchantingly wrought, until the terrifying Fate motto bursts in as the brass take over briefly. The finale, a continuous development of the Fate Motto as a march, is a tour de force. Its alla breve two-in-a-bar pulse is toe-tappingly pervasive, and Kitajenko cunningly manages to scale the sequence of climaxes until he reaches the final one where the Motto blazes out majestically on the full strings, with the trumpet descants being given greater prominence than usual, to thrilling effect.
On this disc we are given a bonne bouche - 3:57 of the Overture to Pique Dame (Queen of Spades); entirely appropriate because its opening tune is almost identical to that which opens the Fifth's last movement. I do hope we will get some more fillers on subsequent discs, with more opportunities to hear the wonderful Gürzenichers.
As elsewhere in the series, the sonics project the illusion of a natural concert in the Philharmonie, Cologne, apparently from two live concerts with a silent audience. At good volume levels, the intervals between movements have quiet rustles from the orchestra adjusting instruments and positions, suggesting that long takes were used, which would explain the intensity of the playing. A pin-sharp focus of the soundstage and clarity of recording allow the full transparency of the orchestral balance to be heard.
A Tchaikovsky Fifth to be treasured. I've already listened to it four times and it seems better at each session. If the earlier symphonies are produced to this standard, then this set will be one of the wonders of SACD.
Copyright © 2012 John Miller and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - June 8, 2012
After some fine accounts of the 6th and Manfred symphonies, Kitajenko's account is something of a disappointment.
Things start well enough, with a rich, luxurious patina from the Gurzenich-Orchester Koln conjured up under Kitajenko's baton. Tempo choices are not extreme on one side or the other until the final return to Tempo I sees a dramatically slower choice - about 50% slower(!) - than either Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Pletnev, Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Gatti or Gergiev's astonishing account (RBCD or download) with the VPO. This robs the music of the continuity of pulse and grumbling trudge into the distance; many will find this jarring and incongruous with all that has preceded it.
The slow movement is much more conventional in tempo choices throughout and the rich timbres that flow from every section of the orchestra are a joy to the ear from a playing perspective. Less convincing however is the increasingly apparent tendency of Kitajenko to over-emphasise feminine endings to phrases - although it must be said the orchestra execute these supremely well. The Waltz is taken relatively (but not markedly) slowly, so the proceedings have a relaxed feel to them (not unwelcome after the high-voltage of the slow movement).
The finale though is where things go most seriously awry due to Kitajenko's somewhat odd choice of tempo progressions. Whereas Gergiev thrillingly manages to ratchet up the tension and tempo up until the coda (where after the majestic restatement of the main theme, the close is electrifying and brings an entirely justified torrent of applause), Kitajenko consistently lets the tempo and - most importantly - tension sag so that, gleaming though the orchestral work may be, the overall effect is almost boring (never a good sign). The Pique Dame overture is played well but as a composition it does not "stand alone" well.
The sound is fantastic, especially when one considers the concert provenance of the disc, with a bold but well-integrated picture for the orchestra.
Sadly not recommended.
Copyright © 2012 John Broggio and HRAudio.net