Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Manfred is a hermaphrodite – at least, as far as the music is concerned. For although the work (dating from 1885) was indeed dubbed by its creator as a symphony, it still did not receive a number alongside Tchaikovsky’s further six contributions to the category. And thus it was – and has still to some extent remained – “draped” over a stool, as it were: isolated in Tchaikovsky’s oeuvre somewhere between the categories of the symphony and the symphonic poem. Nevertheless, Manfred is definitely based on a literary programme. And what a programme – the eponymous dramatic poem written by the “dark romantic” poet, Lord Byron. Tchaikovsky devoted himself to this and to its eponymous hero with zeal, and seemed to even somewhat transform himself into Manfred during the intensive period of work. After all, he was also suffering from inner torment. And this can be heard in the music, which appears to be full of inner conflict. Nowadays, Manfred is rarely heard in the concert hall. Perhaps due to its rather “overloaded” subject? Perhaps due to its unclear stylistic positioning? Or perhaps due to the model upon which it is based, which today is virtually unknown? Towards the end, during the redemption of Manfred, there is even an organ added to the full orchestra. (Incidentally, this was recorded separately in Berlin for the recording at hand.) An apotheosis – however, the “taste” involved here is a subject worthy of debate. And this may, in fact, be the reason…
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 00:59:28
|Original Recording Format
Erdo Groot, Roger de Schot
DZZ studio 5 Moscow
|Recording Type & Bit Rate
|April 3, 2015
Tchaikovsky’s “Manfred” symphony – after a long wait, another premier recording!
In addition to the “Manfred” overture from Robert Schumann, the “Manfred” symphony by Piotr Tchaikovsky is probably the most famous example of this musical romance with “Manfred”. The popularity of its sixth symphony “Pathetique” often, unfortunately, overshadows the symphony as a whole, but this newly released recording by Mikhail Pletnev and his fantastic Russian National Orchestra should awake the public’s interest if only for the star factor. Music and interpretation in a most congenial collaboration. A must listen
This is one of the best Pentatone’s I’ve heard. Every detail is heard. Massed strings sound wonderful as do the wind and brass instruments. Dynamic range is BIG. Timpani have great presence. Cellos and basses have a firm bottom end. Just enough hall sound to contribute to a big image. All around, this is superb sound. This is an excellent recording that deserves your consideration.
From the first time I heard this symphony years ago, I fell in love with it. It is an orchestral tour de force filled with great melodies and great orchestration. Pletnev’s conducting throughout demonstrates a firm command of the music. The tempo of the first movement is perhaps a bit more deliberate than I prefer but his steady hand and nuanced interpretation pulled me in before long. He builds to a smashing climax where the excellent recording delivers orchestral bloom and bottom end in spades. I was entirely convinced by Pletnev’s conducting in the other three movements – he really has the measure of Tchaikovsky in his blood and the Russian National Orchestra play superbly. Pletnev reveals all of the drama in this music and there is a lot of drama! The grand fugue in the final movement is wonderfully delivered by this team leading up to the reintroduction of the descending Manfred theme that started the work. The original score calls for a harmonium in the final movement though everyone in the modern era uses a pipe organ instead which actually has a big impact on the resulting sound. In this recording, Pentatone is forthright in saying that the organ part was recorded separately at a different location than the orchestra. Despite that, the integration in the final (stereo SACD) mix is nigh on perfect. There is a convincing illusion that the organ and orchestra are in the same space which speaks to the care and skill that the engineering team took in assembling the recording in the studio. I’ve never heard this work with a harmonium but I have to believe it would be a much different (and inferior) experience versus the huge pipe organ that is usually used. As to the recorded sound in general, this is one of the best Pentatone’s I’ve heard. Every detail is heard. Massed strings sound wonderful as do the wind and brass instruments. Dynamic range is BIG. Timpani have great presence. Cellos and basses have a firm bottom end. Just enough hall sound to contribute to a big image. All around, this is superb sound. Having not heard any of the SACD competition for this work, I cannot compare/contrast. What I CAN say is that this is an excellent recording that deserves your consideration.
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