Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony Op. 58 (2013)

Tchaikovsky

Russian National Orchestra

Mikhail Pletnev

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Manfred is a hermaphrodite – at least, as far as the music is concerned. For although the work (dating from 1885) was indeed dubbed by its creator as a symphony, it still did not receive a number alongside Tchaikovsky’s further six contributions to the category. And thus it was – and has still to some extent remained – “draped” over a stool, as it were: isolated in Tchaikovsky’s oeuvre somewhere between the categories of the symphony and the symphonic poem. Nevertheless, Manfred is definitely based on a literary programme. And what a programme – the eponymous dramatic poem written by the “dark romantic” poet, Lord Byron. Tchaikovsky devoted himself to this and to its eponymous hero with zeal, and seemed to even somewhat transform himself into Manfred during the intensive period of work. After all, he was also suffering from inner torment. And this can be heard in the music, which appears to be full of inner conflict. Nowadays, Manfred is rarely heard in the concert hall. Perhaps due to its rather “overloaded” subject? Perhaps due to its unclear stylistic positioning? Or perhaps due to the model upon which it is based, which today is virtually unknown? Towards the end, during the redemption of Manfred, there is even an organ added to the full orchestra. (Incidentally, this was recorded separately in Berlin for the recording at hand.) An apotheosis – however, the “taste” involved here is a subject worthy of debate. And this may, in fact, be the reason...

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Russian National Orchestra

The Russian National Orchestra was founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev and is today recognized as one of the world’s top orchestras.  Maintaining an active international tour schedule, the RNO appears throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas, and is a frequent visitor to major festivals such as Edinburgh, Shanghai and the BBC Proms.  The orchestra presents its own RNO Grand Festival each September to open the Moscow season, and is founding orchestra of Festival del Sole, held every July in California’s Napa Valley.

RNO concerts are regularly aired on National Public Radio in the United States, the European Broadcasting Union, and Russia's Kultura channel.  The orchestra's critically acclaimed discography, launched with a 1991 CD cited as the best recording of Tchaikovsky’s Pathéthiquein history, now numbers more than 80 recordings, with conductors that include Founder and Music Director Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Jurowski, Kent Nagano, Vasily Petrenko and Carlo Ponti. 

Mikhail Pletnev

After his studies at the Central Special Music School, Mikhail Pletnev entered the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1974, where he studied with Jakob Flier and Lev Vlasenko. Aged only 21, Pletnev was the Gold Medal and First Prize winner of the 1978 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. He has since appeared as soloist with the major orchestras under conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly, Valery Gergiev, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano and Kurt Sanderling.

In 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet system, Mikhail Pletnev was able to realize his dream of forming the Russian National Orchestra. Under his artistic leadership, the RNO has become known as one of the world’s leading orchestras. Although his conducting career is primarily focused on the RNO, he also makes appearances as a guest-conductor with such prestigious orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Berliner Sinfonieorchester and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In September 1999, Pletnev was appointed the RNO’s Conductor Laureate and his collaboration with the orchestra has continued in many of its recordings and concerts. In February 2003, he conducted the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the Berliner Konzerthaus for the official opening of the Russian Year of Culture. 

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Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony Op. 58 (2013)

Tchaikovsky

Russian National Orchestra

    Artistxite

Tchaikovsky's "Manfred" symphony - after a long wait, another premier recording! In addition to the "Manfred" overture from Robert Schumann, the "Manfred" symphony by Piotr Tchaikovsky is probably the most famous example of this musical romance with "Manfred". The popularity of its sixth symphony "Pathetique" often, unfortunately, overshadows the symphony as a whole, but this newly released recording by Mikhail Pletnev and his fantastic Russian National Orchestra should awake the public's interest if only for the star factor. Music and interpretation in a most congenial collaboration. A must listen

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    SA-CD.net

This is one of the best Pentatone’s I’ve heard. Every detail is heard. Massed strings sound wonderful as do the wind and brass instruments. Dynamic range is BIG. Timpani have great presence. Cellos and basses have a firm bottom end. Just enough hall sound to contribute to a big image. All around, this is superb sound. This is an excellent recording that deserves your consideration.

    SA-CD.net

From the first time I heard this symphony years ago, I fell in love with it. It is an orchestral tour de force filled with great melodies and great orchestration. Pletnev’s conducting throughout demonstrates a firm command of the music. The tempo of the first movement is perhaps a bit more deliberate than I prefer but his steady hand and nuanced interpretation pulled me in before long. He builds to a smashing climax where the excellent recording delivers orchestral bloom and bottom end in spades. I was entirely convinced by Pletnev’s conducting in the other three movements – he really has the measure of Tchaikovsky in his blood and the Russian National Orchestra play superbly. Pletnev reveals all of the drama in this music and there is a lot of drama! The grand fugue in the final movement is wonderfully delivered by this team leading up to the reintroduction of the descending Manfred theme that started the work. The original score calls for a harmonium in the final movement though everyone in the modern era uses a pipe organ instead which actually has a big impact on the resulting sound. In this recording, Pentatone is forthright in saying that the organ part was recorded separately at a different location than the orchestra. Despite that, the integration in the final (stereo SACD) mix is nigh on perfect. There is a convincing illusion that the organ and orchestra are in the same space which speaks to the care and skill that the engineering team took in assembling the recording in the studio. I’ve never heard this work with a harmonium but I have to believe it would be a much different (and inferior) experience versus the huge pipe organ that is usually used. As to the recorded sound in general, this is one of the best Pentatone’s I’ve heard. Every detail is heard. Massed strings sound wonderful as do the wind and brass instruments. Dynamic range is BIG. Timpani have great presence. Cellos and basses have a firm bottom end. Just enough hall sound to contribute to a big image. All around, this is superb sound. Having not heard any of the SACD competition for this work, I cannot compare/contrast. What I CAN say is that this is an excellent recording that deserves your consideration.

Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony Op. 58 (2013)

Tchaikovsky

Russian National Orchestra

Mastering Engineer: Erdo Groot
Producer: Job Maarse
Recording Engineer: Erdo Groot, Roger de Schot
Recording location: DZZ studio 5 Moscow
Recording Software: Merging
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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PTC5186387: Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony Op. 58
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Tracks.
1.
Lento lugubre-Moderato con moto-Andante
Tchaikovsky
00:17:33   Select quality & channels above
2.
Vivace con spirito
Tchaikovsky
00:10:04   Select quality & channels above
3.
Andante con moto
Tchaikovsky
00:11:30   Select quality & channels above
4.
Allegro con fuoco
Tchaikovsky
00:20:21   Select quality & channels above

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