Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6; Dumka

Christoph Eschenbach

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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6; Dumka Review

by Blair Sanderson

Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra have put out a number of impressive hybrid SACDs on the Finnish Ondine label, and this exceptional live recording of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathétique," is further evidence for audiophiles that they deliver the goods. Performed at Verizon Hall in October 2006, and recorded in 5.0 surround sound, the symphony is lush and passionate in Eschenbach's reading, yet it is also surprisingly leisurely and ingratiating -- terms one seldom associates with this tragic work -- and the conductor's relaxed approach to Tchaikovsky's music suggests a willingness to let the music flow naturally and gracefully, without forcing its theatricality. As he guides the Philadelphians through this late Romantic symphony, Eschenbach plays up its abundant lyricism over its darker, stormier aspects, and showcases the orchestra's rich colors and the venue's resonant acoustics, with great instrumental separation in this state-of-the-art format. The second work, the Dumka in C minor, Op. 59, features Eschenbach on piano and follows his usual practice on his Ondine recordings of providing keyboard and chamber works as filler. This short, light vignette of Russian rustic life complements the symphony in its poignant mood, yet serves as a welcome palate cleanser after the richness of the orchestra's performance.

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