For a conductor his experience and rising international prile, Kirill Petrenko is represented very sparsely on disc – a few recordings the music Josef Suk, a couple operas and supporting roles in some concertos and recordings operatic excerpts, together with one the works in the Berlin Philharmonic’s 2017 John Adams compilation.
That, though, is likely to change as his career with the Berlin orchestra gets under way – he takes over ficially as its chief conductor in August.
A sample what to expect comes with this 2017 performance Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony, taken from the first concert that Petrenko conducted with the orchestra after his appointment was announced.
Though as lavishly packaged as the Berlin Philharmonic’s own CDs always are, at around £16 it’s still pretty poor value for just 45 minutes’ music. And for all the excellence the orchestral playing – more confirmation that the orchestra really relishes working with this remarkably self-effacing musician – the performance does sometimes seem a little underpowered, in a work that does nothing by halves expressively.
There are things to admire in every movement – the burnished woodwind sound in the symphony’s opening moments, the Mendelssohnian lightness the strings at the start the scherzo, and tight control the brass at the climax the same movement – but taken as a whole, the performance doesn’t quite shake or stir as it should.
Also out this week
By coincidence, the Pathétique also forms part an Accentus DVD performances by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Andris Nelsons, one the other leading contenders for the Berlin job when Petrenko was appointed in 2015. Recorded in the Gewandhaus in March last year, the disc also contains Mozart’s G minor Symphony K550 (though not, sadly, the new work by Thomas Larcher that was also part the concert). Comparing the two Tchaikovsky interpretations is instructive. Both orchestras are magnificent, with perhaps the more lustrous strings in Leipzig, but where Petrenko integrates every musical detail into the dramatic scheme the symphony with unselfconscious logic, there’s much more obvious stage management in Nelsons’ account, so that the results seem manipulative with their fierce emphases and exaggerated dramatic pauses. For a Pathétique that manages both detail and unforced emotional intensity, Yevgeny Mravinsky’s Deutsche Grammophon recording, though now almost 60 years old, remains unsurpassed.