Peter Ilyich Tchaikowsky
This release can hardly be said to fill a pressing need in the repertory. These two warhorses have been recorded by virtually every major conductor — and plenty of minor ones too, for that matter — and there are many truly distinguished extant recordings to choose from. So I must confess that I greeted the arrival of this disc with less than rapturous enthusiasm. But after a few hearings, it has grown on me.
Romeo comes first, as it would in a concert program featuring these works. Jarvi gives it a muscular, assertive reading that does not rely too greatly on the all-too-familiar "Tonight We Love" theme, but gives equal emphasis to the more dramatic elements of the score. His approach to the symphony is similar. This is not an expansive, grandly romantic Pathetique, but rather a sober, somewhat driven performance that emphasizes the dramatic more than the romantic elements.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra plays with fire and commitment throughout. One
cannot help noticing that their sound is, in comparison to orchestras of the
first rank, a bit short on tonal allure and the ensemble weight that a
Chicago, Philadelphia or Vienna band would produce. But the slightly greater
sense of struggle in meeting the challenges of the scores adds to the dramatic
quality of the performances.
sound is, as usual, excellent, although not quite the equal of the label's
very best recordings. I listened
to it in two-channel SACD; I cannot comment on the quality of the surround
version. But I think it is safe to say that this is one of the better-sounding
Pathetique recordings available.
I imagine that most experienced collectors will already have favorite versions of these works. But listeners lacking one or more favorite alternate versions, and especially those interested in superiors sound, may well find Jarvi's recording quite satisfying.