Saturday, January 7, 2017

Yevgeny Mravinsky conducts Symphony Pathétique


   In history of culture we have many mysterious phenomenons giving scope to our imagination. Facing chef-d'oeuvre we can’t rationalize all of its qualities, so we are mythologizing the story of its creation or just seeking any reason to explain its uniqueness. One of such masterpieces is Symphony B minor, Op. 74 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The work has been called Symphony Pathétique by composer’s brother Modest, and approved by composer himself. This emotional work was intended as program symphony, A Programme Symphony was even its projected name, but composer decided not to reveal the program as it was too much private, as Tchaikovsky wrote “suffused with subjectivity”, so he decided to leave it without any comments.
   Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his 6th Symphony in February and March 1893 and orchestrated the work in the summer of the same year, although there are some rumors connecting this composition with his death assuming he committed suicide. The official cause was cholera, and the idea of connecting Symphony Pathétique with his death is again testimony of our inability to accept some phenomenon exceeding our understanding. Facts are simple and still significant. He died three months after he finished this composition. October 28th, he conducted the premiere of this symphony in St. Petersburg, and after first performance he said: “Something strange is happening with this symphony! It's not that it displeased, but it has caused some bewilderment. So far as I myself am concerned, I'm more proud of it than any of my other works”. Nine days later, November 6th, 1893 he died.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky - Symphony Pathétique - Yevgeny Mravinsky (1956)

   The same city Tchaikovsky premiered his last symphony, 63 years later was the scene of unforgettable recording session when great performance of this work was captured. This was the time of growing recognition and interesting focusing on Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and its artistic director, conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky. Series of great premiere performances including symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich, international fame was already huge, even if conductor was traveling reluctantly and did not like recording sessions. As conductor he devoted his career to orchestra, to create its artistic profile and to build technical possibilities. The results of his work were astonishing. Precision of articulation and sound of Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was recognized as one of most characteristic achievements of Russian universal musical culture, as well as Tchaikovsky’s symphonic music, especially his last symphony. The only reason this recording has few releases, definitely not as much as it deserves, was its monophonic technology, which as the moment was out of date already. Despite of this, published by Deutsche Grammophone Gesellschaft it remains one of most significant recordings of this symphony.
   Symphony Pathétique belongs to core repertoire of symphonic orchestras and with huge range of possible readings and interpretations it’s good to know some essential and most meaningful renditions. The one that can play referential role and one of most famous is monaural recording made by Yevgeny Mravinsky with Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in 1956. What tells the difference between this and many other performances is intensity of musical action. Every phrase of this recording is clear and strong sentence of the whole story which is the 6th Symphony in itself, although devoid of program, it remains a strong narrative construction. Profound and expressive, perfect in every moment, this album is document of artistic potential of the Leningrad Philharmonics one decade after the war. And this is the reason to see such recordings as corner stones of the orchestra’s and conductor’s fame. 

1 comment:

Sharon Hart said...

This is my favorite symphony. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading this article.

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