Mariss Jansons

Symphonie Nr. 6: Tschaikowsky, Shostakowitsch

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Pairing the sixth symphonies of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky and Dmitry Shostakovich on this BR Klassik release suggests some kind of mysterious link between them, possibly something to do with sharing the same number and key signature of B minor. However, there is little beyond those two obvious facts to connect these works, and it seems unlikely that Shostakovich intended any references to Tchaikovsky's music, however oblique. Granted, the Largo of Shostakovich's Sixth is tragic in tone and somber in its scoring, as is the Finale of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique," but its dark mood is somewhat dispelled by the sardonic Allegro and Presto movements that follow it, and there are no common themes or motives to alert the listener to any associations with Tchaikovsky. Rather than search for links that aren't there, it may be better to listen to these works for their oddness. In the third movement of the "Pathétique," for example, Tchaikovsky offers a loud and bombastic hybrid march-tarantella that sets up false expectations, seeming to conclude the symphony before the actual Finale (it often tricks audiences into clapping prematurely). Similarly, Shostakovich's symphony ends with two short parodies that fool audiences into thinking they've heard a happy ending, when they haven't. But if the game of looking for connections is too tedious or silly, it is perhaps enough that Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra gave respectable performances of these symphonies, and that the label recorded them with remarkable sound for concert performances. But be forewarned of the audible humming in the exposed opening of the Finale of the Tchaikovsky's and the Largo of the Shostakovich, an unfortunate coincidence, indeed.

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