- Symphony No. 6 in B minor ("Pathétique"), Op. 74
- Romeo and Juliet, fantasy-overture for orchestra in B minor (3 versions)
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Valery Gergiev is the most exciting Russian conductor to have appeared in a generation. His landmark series for Philips with the Kirov Opera, spanning virtually the entire history of Russian opera from Glinka to Prokofiev, is supremely ambitious; although his recordings of Russian orchestral music have been fewer and further between, many of them are no less distinguished. Gergiev's new version of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony should take its place toward the top of the list of available recordings, especially for those who like their Tchaikovsky red-blooded and cast on a grand scale. From the dark, brooding bassoon solo to the hint of portamento in the first movement's big string theme, it's clear that this "Pathétique" is a throwback to the old-fashioned, heart-on-sleeve approach to Tchaikovsky: impulsive, impetuous, and unabashedly romantic. Following an explosively dramatic opening movement, the waltz in 5/4 time is full of grace and lightly-sprung rhythms, the scherzo-march flashes with wit and excitement, and the finale projects a searing pathos without a trace of self-pity. If not quite the equal of the finest Western ensembles, the Kirov Orchestra still plays with equal amounts of fire and finesse, and with a slight -- and unmistakably Russian -- roughness in the brass. The recorded sound is lifelike and natural, with only a slight tendency to blur in the biggest climaxes. A colorfully dramatic version of Romeo and Juliet rounds out a very attractive album.