RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR
Violas tear into their lines like jackals dining at carrion, miked to a point where you can hear the rosin-clouds fly
Peter Quantrill listens to an overwhelming account of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony
Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6, ‘Pathétique’, Op 74 MusicAeterna / Teodor Currentzis Sony Classical F 88985 40435-2 (46’ • DDD) You may be inclined to adjust your set from the very opening, and you should: the disc demands a high playback level when the neighbours are out; or, for a sleepless night, on decent headphones.
Currentzis and the engineering team (who should properly be credited here: producer Damien Quintard, assisted by Arnaud Merckling and Afanasy Chupin) have crafted the kind of studio-made experience that went out of fashion two decades ago and more. There are very many things here that it would be impossible to achieve in concert, though I’d like to see MusicAeterna try. Take that opening again, the first page in a chronicle of a death foretold if ever there was one. The bassoon solo is phrased neither in three linked but expressively impotent segments, nor as the unending melody of which Karajan was often falsely, sometimes justly charged. Rather, it swells and recedes in continual motion with acute sensitivity both to the composer’s minutely detailed markings, and in response
4 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2018
to the more glacially shifting string harmonies (a long way) beneath.
Then silence: not the silence of drawing breath or anticipation but black; not a dead black like the sound engineer’s jargon for the end of an LP side but black as Vantablack, fathomless. This is a symphony of silences; Currentzis has calibrated them with the unsparing precision of a Pinter or a Haneke. From him you might expect the striking of attitude and individualistic exploitation of technology that produced an uneven trilogy of Mozart/da Ponte operas and does not so much skirt as abandon itself to a crater of molten solipsism. Perhaps, in the Pathétique, Currentzis has met his match. What is new, and delightful, is the shaping of the second theme as a question and answer, played as if en pointe: a happy inspiration which brings necessary if short-lived relief and which comes to have significant ramifications for the scale of the PHO T O G R A P H Y
Z A V J Y A L O V
A N T O N
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