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Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2008

Christoph Eschenbach’s interpretation of the “Pathétique” Symphony is the best in his traversal of the big three Tchaikovsky symphonies. It provides still more evidence that the music Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra are capable of producing together makes their apparently acrimonious separation all the more regrettable

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Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2008

Superficially, this is a polished performance by one of the world’s virtuoso orchestras; and although the timings suggest that the performance is a slow one, you couldn’t exactly say it drags—certainly, not the way Eschenbach’s geriatric Shostakovich Fifth does. Much of the performance is affecting, as well: try, as an instance of Eschenbach at his best, the resigned nobility at the beginning of the finale. Still, to my ears, temperatures are too low, as Eschenbach calms the music’s temperament by muting the emotional intensifiers. Rhythmic force, in particular, is blunted. Thus, for instance, the syncopated woodwind parts that begin at the second measure of letter H in the first movement emerge clearly enough. But they don’t have any rhetorical point: instead of pushing the music ahead, they merely adorn it. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Victor Carr Jr, June 2008

After a very good Tchaikovsky Fifth symphony and a so-so Fourth, Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra have hit a home run with the Pathétique. Like the previous editions in this cycle, this is a large-scale performance with movement durations somewhat longer than the norm. But this in no way suggests slackness on Eschenbach’s part, for his is a taut and tense reading, infused with drama and passion. The first-movement development releases tremendous energy without becoming maudlin, but the biggest climax comes at the second subject’s reprise, where Eschenbach milks the big tune for all its expressive power. Afterward the scherzo trips along lightly in its 5/4 meter.

The Philadelphia Orchestra plays superbly: this is the finest and most expressive playing on disc since Bernstein’s enthralling (and sprawling) 1986 version with the New York Philharmonic. Philadelphia’s hallmarks are all present: rich, singing strings, biting brass, and vibrant woodwinds. The percussion is excellent too--listen to the bold timpani playing in the magnificently rendered march-scherzo third movement. The finale captivates at Eschenbach’s slow pace. This, along with his unapologetic evocation of the music’s dark emotions, makes the ending truly tragic.

Tchaikovsky’s fiery and dramatic Dumka makes a nice foil for the preceding symphony (not that you really need one), and Eschenbach demonstrates his virtuoso piano technique in this stirring reading. The recording sports high impact and wide dynamic range in both CD and SACD formats. An excellent disc, with performances that will make fans of the Ormandy/Philadelphia versions feel right at home.

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