An enjoyable listen, full of intensity
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I doubt that James Levine feels a special affinity for the Tchaikovsky symphonies, given that this 1984 Pathetique with the CSO is his only entry in the field. It starts off oddly, with the agitato first theme taken too quck and nervously, but after that, it's clear that Levine and the RCA engineers are out for a blockbuster. Every phrase is leaned into with intensity, and the sonics shake the rafters. The absence of delicacy didn't bother me--this symphony is too often played for weepy effect. But things get pretty rought and ready in the march. One can't forget the outstanding, if cooler, Pathetique made by Reiner with the same orchestra on the same label. That recording was also in outstanding Living Stereo sound.
The best movement here is the last, which Levine takes care over and paces with measured melancholy. At 45 min. without a filler, this is no bargain (though used copies now sell very cheaply at Amazon marketplace). In all, this is never less than a good performance, and it certainly holds appeal for anyone who wants to be lifted out of their chair."