Mikhail Pletnev / Russian National Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4; Overture "Romeo and Juliet"

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Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony represents a turning point in the composer's symphonic output. By the Fourth, Tchaikovsky had really found his own voice, tragic as it was, and began writing symphonies with much more poignancy, depth, and fervor. Many stressors were present as Tchaikovsky was writing the Fourth Symphony: constant financial worries, his brief marriage intended to deflect scrutiny about his own orientation, and the subsequent dissolution of the marriage to name but a few. Whether a listener subscribes to the theory that the Fourth Symphony is a musical translation of these events in the composer's life or not will play a role in their interpretation of the symphony as entirely absolute or semi-autobiographical. Lending their own interpretation on this PentaTone Classics disc are conductor Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra. Founded in 1990, the RNO has already achieved a great many accolades for its technically polished performances. With a fellow Russian at the helm of the orchestra, one would likely expect a robust, vigorous, assertive performance that accentuates the fatalistic elements of the score, particularly in the outer movements. While Pletnev and orchestra certainly deliver a technically flawless execution, their performance may be seen as a bit too nice. Where's the punchy, almost belligerent brass? The triple fortes that should make hairs stand on end? The free, sorrowful song of the English horn that opens the second movement? All of these elements are just too polished, too status quo, too nice.

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