Tchaikovsky has called his 6th Symphony, the so-called Pathétique, as his most important work. It is based on a program that extends from the first movement determined by momentum, confidence, and zest for action to death in the course of the last movement, thus symphonically recreating the human life cycle. While the premiere conducted by the composer shortly before his death in Saint Petersburg almost came to disaster, the Pathétique turned out to be a success story in later years to this day. Countless recordings tell of this. Nearly all conductors of world renown have left their acoustic fingerprint of the work deeply reflecting the Russian soul. It is to report from the most diverse approaches to convey the concerns of the symphony, from the fiery impetus of Sergei Kussevizki and Willem Mengelberg on to the romantic approach of a Wilhelm Furtwängler countered by the comparatively sober viewpoint of Arturo Toscanini to the no less convincing, factual presentation of the symphony through Evgeny Mrawinsky. All of these recorded fascinating interpretations draw their power conveyed to the orchestra from the sometimes dictatorially mediated will of strong conductor personalities.
The 45-year-old Teodor Currenzis of Greek-Russian descent joins this phalanx of long-dead strong conductor personalities. He realizes his mostly extreme interpretive ideas through meticulous rehearsal work, which knows almost no time limits and can reach far into the night if the desired goal cannot be achieved otherwise. In the guise of the ensemble MusicAeterna, founded by him from professionals and students of the Russian music scene - not to be confused with the ensemble Musica Aeterna, founded in 1973 - he has a willing instrument trained on historically informed performance, which is open-minded to musical extremism and striving for perfection. First recordings and concert appearances in the Western hemisphere, MusicAeterna is resident in the Siberian Perm, testify of the extreme to extremist way of understanding and making music by a Teodor Currenzis. It will be interesting to see how the keenness to rehearsal of this conductor is compatible with the SWR Symphony Orchestra, whose designated Principal Conductor he is, that is, with an ensemble of public broadcasting sticking in the corset of fixed rehearsal time, emerged from two orchestras of long standing tradition and of different attitude of music making, and so far, vainly struggling for its own style.
The extremist Teodor Currenzis and his musicians manage a highly satisfying interpretation of the Pathétique that is extremely exciting from beginning to end, and that takes on all the ups and downs of the mood, which is already dreary in the first movement, without compromise. Not even the smallest composed fluctuation of feelings is lost in this approach to a symphony, whose different interpretation variants are documented in numerous recordings. None of the recordings available today, not even the excellent recordings with Mengelberg, Kussevizki, Toscanini, Furtwängler and Mrawinski has the enormous power of interpretation by Teodor Currenzis, which unites contradictory feelings, such as wildness and tenderness, as well as joy and sorrow, thereby producing hitherto unheard-of tension just as the most natural thing in the world.
The recording technique takes due account of the unconventional approach of the conductor and his ensemble to Tchaikovsky's last work through its richness of detail and extreme dynamics. The advantages of the high-resolution download do the rest to make this album completely unreservedly recommendable.
Teodor Currentzis, conductor