Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 with Kirill Petrenko or Why Maybe I Do Like Tchaikovsky After All

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

My first ever post on this blog regarding Tchaikovsky created a bit of a debate among my readers, as it was titled Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 with Neeme Järvi or Why I Don’t Like Tchaikovsky.

Several of them couldn’t believe that I don’t really like Tchaikovsky that much, and tried to convince me otherwise.

That said, this post has been some years ago and I still basically limited my Tchaikovsky listening to about once yearly going back to said Symphony No. 5, occasionally the Violin Concerto with Heifetz (but more likely because it is on the same album as his fantastic Brahms), and every once in a while testing out new versions of his piano concerto no. 1, more often than not being disappointed.

And, for sure, during the pre-Christmas period, the Nutcracker, ideally by Rattle, was a must have.

I’ve tried the four early symphonies by Tchaikovsky, never got them, but most surprisingly his 6th, which many consider his symphonic masterpiece, never got my attention.

So when the Berlin Philharmonic finally released his first album with their new boss (elected many years ago), I got curious.

I’m very happy I did check it out.

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6 – Kirill Petrenko – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO 2019)

So far, I must admit I always go a bit lost in this piece. Guess what, Petrenko really opened my eyes and ears here.

His very transparent reading helped me to see the structure, to understand the nuances, to see the many beautiful similarities with the beautiful orchestral sounds of his ballets.

At the same time, this is not a slim HIP-inspired baroque interpretation, as the word “transparent” may imply. This is the romantic power and suave sound of the BPO at it’s best. So all the necessary drama of the “Pathétique” is there when it is needed.

If this is an indication of the future of the Berlin Philharmonic under his new conductor, I hope this was not only a snapshot from the honeymoon period. We could be really entering a new Golden Age of the BPO, and we all should be going back to Scharoun’s yellow tent more often (if you can get tickets).

My rating: 5 stars

P.S. Gramophone agrees, giving this album an Editor’s Choice in the July 2019 edition

You can find it here (Qobuz)

Petrenko @BerlinPhil follow-on – “it just clicked”

Following on to my article below, I was pointed to this very friendly article from the NY times. According to one of the musicians, it “just clicks” with Petrenko (side note: I wonder if it ever “just clicked” when they chose Karajan).

I guess this is what music actually needs to be like in the 21st century, no mediagenic Titan holding the baton, but somebody who really cares about the music (not trying to imply that Karajan didn’t care about the music by the way).

Now I’m taking bets on his first symphony cycle recording, given that he has barely recorded anything yet makes him a total wild card.

Here is mine, based mainly on exclusions: Russian? Too obvious. Schumann? Rattle just released a good cycle. Brahms: same thing (a bit longer ago). Mozart: more relevant for period ensembles these days. Mendelssohn: nobody wants to hear anything but 3 and 4. And finally Beethoven: No way! too risky.

Anton Bruckner?

Therefore, and also based on his experience conducting Wagner in Bayreuth, my bet is on Bruckner. To my knowledge, Rattle never went beyond the 4th and 9th, and even Abbado didn’t do a full cycle with the BPO.

What do you think?

Habemus Papam – Kirill Petrenko to lead the Berlin Philharmonic. One question remains: who the heck is that?

I’ve previously mentioned the search of a successor for Simon Rattle in Berlin. 

Now we have the answer: Kirill Petrenko. 

I assume I’m not the only one barely familiar with this young conductor. He has recorded only a small handful albums and has never formally headed a symphony orchestra before (only opera, at the Berlin Komische Oper, in Munich and also Bayreuth). 

At least this article from the Guardian sounds reassuring. 

Interesting times ahead as of 2018.