TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred, Op. 58.
Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev, cond.

TCHAKOVSKY: Symphony in E flat (1891-1892). Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat, Op. posth.
Lilya Zilberstein, piano; Gürzenich Orchester Köln/Dmtri Kitajenko, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC 672 TT: 56:42

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor (arr. Anthony Payne) J. STRAUSS II: Wine, Women and Song (arr. Berg).
Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ens/Trevor Pinnock, cond.
LINN SACD CKD 442 TT: 65:39

The remarkable Mikhail Pletnev concludes his Pentatone Tchaikovsky symphony series with this magnificent account of Manfred. He already has multiple recordings of all of these works, and continues to be an outstanding interpreter of Tchaikovsky's music—not only as conductor, but a pianist as well, having recorded all of the works for piano and orchestra (many available on video). His latest recording of the Pathétique is among the finest you'll ever experience, and this Manfred is in the same category. Some might question Pletnev's deliberate tempo for the main opening theme of the finale, but it works. The solo organ in the finale is played by Norbert Gembaczka on the organ in Berlin's St. Ludwig's Church, dubbed into the master. Audio quality throughout is exemplary, with remarkable clarity and impact, par ticularly in the percussion. Some Russian conductors prefer to end the symphony, in grandiose fashion, with the final pages of the the first movement instead of the soft gentle original ending. I'm surprised, considering his imagination, Pletnev doesn't. At any rate, this is an outstanding performance and audio is among the best produced by Pentatone. This is a treat for the collector, and highly recommended.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 7 really isn't, nor is the Piano Concerto No. 3. The composer began work on the symphony after completing his Symphony No. 5 but abandoned it after finishing the first movement. The other two movements of the symphony existed only in sketches. Russian composer Semyon Bogatyrev reconstructed them resulting in the three movement Symphony No. 7; all other Tchaikovsky symphonies have four movements. The music surely is pleasant enough although hardly representative of the composer's best. The premiere of te "new" Tchaikovsk symphony took place in Moscow in 1957. Eugene Ormandy gave the American premiere in 1962 and made the first recording, which has always been in the catalog. Now we have the symphony in this vigorous performance by the Gürzenich Orchestra under Dmitri Kitajanko, the conclusion of their admirable multi-channel set of the composer's symphonies, most of which have been reviewed on this site (check Surround Sound Index). Also included is what is called Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 3 which is an adaptation for piano and orchestra of he first movement of the symphony's first movement. It features a block-buster solo cadenza, and is brilliant played by Lilya Zilberstein, but there is strong competition from more than two dozen competing versions—but none of them have the excellent audio heard on this fine new recording.

Not too long ago, this site unenthusiastically mentioned Trevor Pinnock's recording of Mahler's Symphony No.4 in a chamber version by Erwin Stein (REVIEW). According to program notes, this is an attempt to follow Arnold Schoenberg's efforts decades earlier to present large-scale orchestral works with reduced forces to distill and clarify musical content with leaner textures. Now we have this chamber version by Anthony Payne which was commissioned by Pinnock. No doubt hat the playing by the Royal Academy chamber ensemble is committed, but I imagine most listeners surely would prefer the sound of a large orchestra in original scoring. As a filler, we have a nod to Schoenberg's conception of less is more, Alban Berg's arrangement of Johann Strauss's Wine, Women and Song. Excellent audio.

R.E.B. (June 2014)