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Classical - Released April 7, 2015 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released July 3, 2015 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Alexander Scriabin's development as a composer was marked by dramatic changes in his style, from the rather direct Romanticism of his Symphony No. 1 in E major to the more harmonically complex and mystical music of his middle and late phases, represented here by the Poem of Ecstasy (Symphony No. 4). This multichannel hybrid SACD recording by Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra presents both works in luscious state-of-the-art sound, which brings out the richness of Scriabin's orchestration and puts both pieces in a spacious acoustic that allows them to have their proper impact. While the Symphony No. 1 is already grandiose in its six-movement form, Wagnerian harmonies, and long-breathed, passionate melodies, it is outshone by the Poem of Ecstasy, which is an explosive blast of energy compressed in one dynamic movement that strains toward cosmic rapture. Pletnev and his musicians deliver the Symphony No. 1 with the full range of expressions, from poignant lyricism to volatile climaxes, but they give the Poem a building intensity that is captivating, especially when experienced on a high-end sound system. This PentaTone recording is a fine place to start with Scriabin's symphonic works, and newcomers to his music will find them quite accessible. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 2, 2011 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio
Had this been a conventional CD release, Mikhail Pletnev's studio recording of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathétique," might have stood out as an excellent rendition of this extremely popular work, but like too many comparable recordings on the glutted market, it might have been lost in the shuffle. What makes it considerably more noticeable and desirable is the DSD recording and the hybrid-SACD format, which make it a stunner. The "Pathétique" is so familiar and beloved of audiences that it is easy to treat it casually, like aural wallpaper. But this 2011 PentaTone release makes the symphony sound utterly revitalized and refreshed, so listening to all the details and dimensions of the Russian National Orchestra's playing is a pleasure, and not an obligation. A work as perennial and, yes, timeworn as this piece can only benefit from the audiophile treatment, and the multichannel reproduction is as spacious, lush, and visceral as any live performance, bringing across full sonorities, vibrant bass lines, rich timbres, and cutting attacks. Pletnev also includes the Capriccio Italien as filler, a sunny piece that brightens the mood after the dark depression of the symphony, so this is a well-balanced program, in addition to being a sonic spectacular. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 3, 2011 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio
There is no shortage of recordings of the Symphony No. 5 in E minor by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, so the discriminating listener need not settle for one that falls short of true excellence, however good it may be in some particulars. Such is the case with Mikhail Pletnev's multichannel recording for PentaTone, which for the most part is a respectable effort that has fine sound quality, but which is somewhat less than extraordinary. In such an audiophile presentation, one expects the Russian National Orchestra to be marvelous in sonority, deep in textures, and expansive in spatial dimensions to raise it above the levels of a merely good or satisfactory recording. Yet in spite of the resources at hand, considering that PentaTone has produced some of the finest SACDs available, it sounds about as good as one might expect of a CD, not a state-of-the-art recording. Pletnev's interpretation is lyrical and elastic, so the music sounds fresh and organically conceived, and the orchestra is responsive to the conductor's nuances. But this familiar work falls short of being exciting when it needs to be and seems to be a bit more studied than felt. (There is one unfortunate passage in the Finale where Pletnev indulges in a ritardando that slows down to a farcical sostenuto, showing bad taste.)The filler work, Francesca da Rimini, is played with melodramatic flair and flexibility, but again, the sound is nothing special for a collectors' package. © TiVo
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Ballets - Released February 23, 2010 | Ondine

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This 2010 recording of Tchaikovsky's eternally popular Swan Lake ballet, with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra might be ideal for dancing, but it is less ideal purely as a listening experience. On the whole, and in most of its parts, theirs is a highly dramatic and very fast-paced performance, filled with plenty of vigor, energy, color, and contrast. The score requires more pathos and bathos than depth and profundity, and Pletnev elicits from the Russian musicians a sweetly soulful and wholly polished performance. But this version misses the lightness and buoyancy of Gennady Rozhdestvensky's classic account of the work, a performance that sacrifices none of the work's drama, and allowing it space to dance. Pletnev's recording has many virtues, though, and the listener may find a place on the shelf for both his and Rozhdestvensky's versions. Ondine's sound is clean and lush, with plenty of detail. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 23, 2010 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
While the old saying "All that glitters is not gold" wasn't coined with Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works in mind, it might well have been. As shown by the three pieces here -- the suites from the operas The Snow Maiden and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, Night on Mount Triglav, and from the ballet-opera Mlada -- Rimsky-Korsakov was profligate in his use of glittering sounds: tinkling percussion, twittering winds, shimmering strings, and the occasional crashing cymbal. The Russian late Romantic master was adept at integrating such onomatopoetic sounds into his scores so that they come across less like sound effects than as unified parts of the whole. Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra are less successful at creating a unified whole out of any of these works. Though the musicians play brilliantly, with plenty of color and virtuosity, Pletnev sounds like more of a tourist than a native; he happily notes all the sights along the way, but seems to have little idea where he's going and less idea of how to get there. If energy and beauty are your sole criteria, this spectacularly recorded PentaTone disc will be just the thing. If, however, form and content are more important, Evgeny Svetlanov's recordings of these works are more effective. Though the sound is far less impressive, the performances are far more cogent and convincing. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 5, 2012 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Classical - Released January 1, 2004 | PentaTone

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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Although there have been dozens of recordings of Shostakovich's First and Sixth symphonies over the years, there is still a burning need for more recordings of both. Why? Simple: because both works are essentially inscrutable and no conductor has yet plumbed their enigmatic depths. After all, what's a conductor supposed to do with the First, a four-movement work that so thoroughly mixes irony and tragedy that it's often impossible to tell which is which? Or how about with the Sixth, a three-movement work that opens with a massively nihilistic Largo and ends with a pair of brief but cheerful scherzos? There have been recordings of the First that so stress the irony that it's hard to take the tragedy seriously and other recordings that so stress the tragedy that the irony seems superfluous. Similarly, there have been recordings of the Sixth that speed up the Largo to the point where its despair seems trivial and other recordings that slow down the Largo to the point where its despair seems to have killed it dead. But so far, no recording of either work has completely succeeded in finding the right aesthetic balance between irony and tragedy -- hence the burning need for more recordings What does conductor Vladimir Jurowski do with the First and Sixth in this 2004 recording for PentaTone? He plays it absolutely straight, which, considering the emotional weight of the music, hardly seem like the best approach to take. With the superbly trained and brilliantly colorful Russian National Orchestra, Jurowski turns in performances that reduce the music's tragedy along with its irony. The insouciant tone of the First's opening Allegretto is snappy but lacks bite, while the gravity of the First's central Lento is weighty but lacks depth. Similarly, the limitless desolation of the Sixth's opening Largo is neither too fast nor too slow, but rather too cool to have any effect while the reckless exuberance of the Sixth's closing Presto is marvelously effective but makes the music sound too much like an exercise in orchestral virtuosity and not at all like the conclusion of a work that began with a nihilistic Largo. While PentaTone's deep and detailed sound is surely among the finest either work has ever received, Jurowski's interpretations fail to match the best recordings of the distant past -- Kondrashin's and Rozhdestvensky's -- or the more recent past -- Ashkenazy's or Temirkanov's -- or his contemporaries -- Barshai's and Kitajenko's -- and this recording will be of interest principally to those who collect recordings of Shostakovich's symphonies. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Beautifully recorded and lovingly performed, Vladimir Jurowski and the Russian National Orchestra's coupling of Tchaikovsky's Third Orchestra Suite and Stravinsky's Divertimento from Le baiser de la fée has almost everything going for it. It has plenty of power -- listen to the brass in the Dies irae quote in Tchaikovsky's closing "Theme and Variations" -- plenty of enthusiasm -- listen to the woodwinds in Stravinsky's Dances Suisses -- and plenty of soul -- listen to the strings in the Elégie that opens Tchaikovsky's Suite. Jurowski has the energy to keep the tempos moving, the wit to keep the melodies bouncing, the strength to keep the lines firm, and the sense not to let the music get carried away with itself. The Russian National Orchestra has the big tone, the muscular rhythms, the brilliant colors, and the unsurpassed integrity of the great Soviet orchestras. And PentaTone's super audio sound is as good as the best recordings ever made in any format. So what's missing? In a word, refinement. Not often but too often for comfort, the brass will crack or the strings will slip or the winds will bleat or the ensemble will slide and the listener will be left wondering what happened to the first-rate performance he/she had been listening to. Although anyone who already knows and loves either Tchaikovsky's Third Suite or Stravinsky's Divertimento will want to check out this disc for its many merits, those who do may find themselves slightly let down by the end. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is amply represented in the catalog by dozens of recordings. But the same composer's Ode to the End of the War had only two recordings at the time of this release, the best of which was a scrappy 1965 performance with Leonid Nikolayev leading the assembled multitudes of the USSR Radio & TV Symphony. The work itself tends to crumble under the weight of its own mechanical tempos and bombastic orchestration, but its inclusion does make this disc special. For that reason alone, Prokofiev fanatics will have to hear it. Vladimir Jurowski's Fifth has the necessary scope and scale, plus plenty of muscle, but a slightly too quick Adagio saps some of the emotional impact from his performance. His Ode to the End of War, with its unrelenting drive and unerring pace, is clearly the best yet recorded. The Russian National Orchestra fulfills both the letter and the spirit of both scores. Like the conductor, however, it leaves a small something to be desired -- in this case because of a raw tone and a rough ensemble. Still, the interpretation is persuasive, and easy to endorse for that reason. Though PentaTone has made some excellent super audio recordings, this one is almost too excellent. If the Russian National Orchestra's enormously expanded percussion section were any more tangibly present, there wouldn't be any room left for the listener. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 1, 2009 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
While Dmitry Shostakovich's quirky incidental music for Hamlet is a decent filler piece on this 2009 SACD from PentaTone, the real point of interest is the Symphony No. 15, which must be placed among the master's most inscrutable yet compelling works. Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra deliver one of their finest performances here, possibly because the prospect of revealing everything to the mutichannel DSD recording process keeps them on their best behavior, but also because the symphony demands a wholly serious approach and pushes the musicians to give their all. Pletnev is best known as a brilliant and exciting pianist, but his conducting is often regarded as less accomplished and at times even mediocre, so hearing this recording may restore some listeners' faith in this artist. His interpretation of the Symphony No. 15 is straightforward and conservative, and he stays fairly close to the score, a judicious choice considering the pitfalls of straying into comedy on the one hand, or bathos on the other. Shostakovich's sardonic use of Rossini's William Tell Overture in the first movement should inspire no more silliness than the quotation of Wagner's fate motive from Der Ring des Nibelungen in the Finale should instill dread. No one is quite sure what these pieces of musical bric-a-brac signify, beyond possible autobiographical associations that Shostakovich never fully explained, but they give this work a mysterious quality that is best left suggested rather than overstated. Even the opportunities for hysteria in the Adagio or slapstick in the third movement are handled quite carefully, and Pletnev's restraint enhances the symphony's ambivalent character. In the end, after the haunting closing measures have faded to silence, it seems the symphony remains as enigmatic as ever, and Pletnev has admirably preserved that essential quality. PentaTone's audio is spacious and deep, and everything that can be heard vividly comes through. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 1, 2011 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony represents a turning point in the composer's symphonic output. By the Fourth, Tchaikovsky had really found his own voice, tragic as it was, and began writing symphonies with much more poignancy, depth, and fervor. Many stressors were present as Tchaikovsky was writing the Fourth Symphony: constant financial worries, his brief marriage intended to deflect scrutiny about his own orientation, and the subsequent dissolution of the marriage to name but a few. Whether a listener subscribes to the theory that the Fourth Symphony is a musical translation of these events in the composer's life or not will play a role in their interpretation of the symphony as entirely absolute or semi-autobiographical. Lending their own interpretation on this PentaTone Classics disc are conductor Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra. Founded in 1990, the RNO has already achieved a great many accolades for its technically polished performances. With a fellow Russian at the helm of the orchestra, one would likely expect a robust, vigorous, assertive performance that accentuates the fatalistic elements of the score, particularly in the outer movements. While Pletnev and orchestra certainly deliver a technically flawless execution, their performance may be seen as a bit too nice. Where's the punchy, almost belligerent brass? The triple fortes that should make hairs stand on end? The free, sorrowful song of the English horn that opens the second movement? All of these elements are just too polished, too status quo, too nice. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Beyond any question, Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra's performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 is impressive. The clarity of the strings, lucidity of the winds, the unity of the brass, the precision of the percussion, the cogency of the ensemble: all this is stunning. Beyond any question, the sound of PentaTone's super audio recording is imposing. The violence of the attacks, the brilliance of the colors, the strength of the sonorities, the power of the rhythms, the sheer physical mass and weight of the orchestra: all this is staggering. The pertinent questions with Shostakovich's Eleventh, however, are not "how impressive is the performance" and "how imposing is the recording," but "how honest is the performance" and "how real is the recording?" Nominally dedicated to the memory of the victims of the 1905 workers' revolution brutally crushed by the Czar's cavalry, Shostakovich composed his Eleventh Symphony in 1957, the year after the Hungarian revolution had been brutally crushed by the Russian army, and his work is an overwhelming indictment of oppressive governments past, present, and future. An honest performance makes us know this and a real recording makes us feel this. So, as impressive and imposing as Pletnev and the RNO's 2005 performance recorded live in Brussels is, it cannot compare with Yevgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic's 1967 performance recorded live in Prague. Mravinsky and the Leningrad had been playing Shostakovich since they premiered his Fifth Symphony 30 years earlier, and while Pletnev's is an impressive musical achievement, Mravinsky's is the testimony of musicians who suffered under a murderously oppressive government and survived to tell the truth in their playing. PentaTone's live in Brussels sound is imposing, but Supraphon's live in Prague sound, while raw and hard, is the aural evidence of musicians who knew full well what would happen if the increasingly independent Prague government went too far, what, in fact, did happen less than a year later when the Russian army entered Prague and overthrew the government. Pletnev and the RNO on PentaTone is a brilliant performance. Mravinsky and the Leningrad on Supraphon is of a truth that cannot be suppressed. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | PentaTone

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Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund is a renowned interpreter of the works of his Scandinavian compatriots. Though he is known for some illuminating readings of Danish composer Carl Nielsen's symphonic work, Berglund is perhaps best known for his many recordings of the music of Sibelius, many of which have garnered critical acclaim. His recordings of Shostakovich include renditions of the Seventh, Tenth, and Eleventh symphonies that have been, on the most part, well received. Indeed, the Eighth seems the next logical addition. On this PentaTone SACD, though, Berglund presents us with a Shostakovich Eighth Symphony that is far too reminiscent of a character that can only be described as Sibelian. And, while the long melodic lines Berglund elucidates are nice, they don't seem to be the best fit for Shostakovich's somewhat colder and harsher compositional style: too deep and rich in sound, heavy in weight and sonority, Berglund's music-making here is simply too plodding and contemplative in tempo to fit Shostakovich. The towering, grandiose first movement fares the best of the five. At the beginning, Berglund achieves a robust, contiguous melodic line during the slow, evolving dotted figures. To his credit, he also paints many of the softer moments with a pure, white, emotionless quality that is especially haunting (and appropriate). The gradually unraveling inner string lines twist and turn their way beautifully through Shostakovich's complex, dissonant score and there is, at some moments, much to like. As time goes on, though, it becomes apparent that there is a real lack of forward momentum and pacing: eventually the dotted rhythms lose their gallop and the climaxes seem to peak well before they should ever be attained. While the scherzo of the second movement simply feels too cumbersome, it is the third movement that is the real letdown: far too exacting and much too tame, Berglund seems caught up in the technical fussiness of this movement without giving it any of its desperate, tragic character. What should be a bombastic, war-torn movement lacks any pressing immediacy and bitterness. The quieter fourth and fifth movements regain a certain amount of focus, although they do tend to meander by design. Berglund lightens up accordingly here, and he successfully instills adequate direction. Perhaps it is in the control of small, minute details where Berglund is at his best: the flute flutter-tonguing at the fourth movement's end, for instance. The Mahlerian chamber music sections tucked away into the fifth movement glow with a warm iridescence that helps bring the work to a delicate conclusion. Unfortunately, this is a mixed bag. PentaTone's sound is good, although for an SACD one might expect more inner detail to be revealed. While aficionados would be best advised to stay with Mravinsky or even Previn's second Deutsche Grammophon account, the Russian National Orchestra does perform this music with great soul and conviction. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 6, 2011 | Ondine

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Classical - Released July 21, 2017 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet
One might wonder what an album that only devoted a third of its length to singing has to do with the Fine Singing Magazine. It’s only that the singing offered—as it happens Bach’s Ich habe genug cantata—is so wonderful that the writer of those little words figured it was worth being included. The wonderful singer that we are talking about is the German baritone Stephan Genz, whose velvet voice, perfect elocution, and above all complete lack of any ego in a vocal emission extraordinarily tender, sends many previous recordings (including some “references”, like for instance Fischer-Dieskau whose style, according to your humble servant, is way too saccharine, pompous and affected, especially when singing Bach) back to the fold. Surprisingly, Genz is accompanied here by the Russian National Orchestra, which usually doesn’t stand out in this repertoire; and even rarer, this very orchestra is conducted by the metropolitan Hilarion (and not “Hilarion Alfeyev”: Hilarion is his monastic name, Alfeyev his civil name), a surprising polymath equally as comfortable with theology, ancient languages, philosophy and music, because he composes himself and doesn’t hesitate to conduct—with an extraordinary modesty in his musical elocution, we’re a thousand miles away from Bach conducted by Karajan, but also by some previous baroque fundamentalists…—the greatest works from the holy repertoire. So we would like to welcome Genz and the metropolitan Hilarion to the Fine Singing and Metropolitan Conducting Magazine!
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Classical - Released January 3, 2012 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet
Mikhail Pletnev's 2012 release of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 in G minor, "Winter Dreams," is a sonic showcase, presented in the multichannel super audio format and given the best reproduction PentaTone can provide. This Romantic symphony offers much in the way of atmospheric orchestration and dreamy moods, and some of the most memorable passages are soft and evocative of misty Russian landscapes, so it really helps to have these delicate effects reproduced through sensitive direct stream digital recording. But when the Russian National Orchestra rises to its climaxes, which are many in Tchaikovsky's passionate and exciting music, the surround sound recording captures it all with full spatial dimensions, so the orchestra's sections have distinctive but balanced placement. Pletnev's interpretation is a little unusual, insofar as his tempos in the first three movements are considerably slower than one usually hears, and his emphasis on sharp accentuation seems almost mannered. But these are minor considerations in a performance that in other regards is brilliantly executed and quite effective in depicting the melancholy images the composer intended. This hybrid SACD also contains a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky's popular Marche Slave, which is as bold and bombastic as the First Symphony is subtle. Highly recommended, especially for audiophiles. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 6, 2018 | PentaTone

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In January 1936, Shostakovitch put the final touches to his Fourth Symphony, when the doleful bell sounded which would become famous as Pravda's "Chaos in the Place of Music" article, dictated by the dastardly Stalin, who hadn't enjoyed the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Not fancying a thirty-year holiday in Siberia (or a trip to the mortuary), the composer finished his symphony, in fear of hearing the midnight knock at the door from the terrible NKVD, the forerunners of the KGB. He started rehearsals, but in the end he withdrew the work from the billing on some lame pretext, stuck it in a drawer, and forgot about it... For a quarter of a century, until 1961, when it was finally performed. It is one of the bitterest, darkest, most sinister works by Shostakovitch, who was not short of such pieces, and it is not hard to imagine that for Stalin it might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Stalin would, quite involuntarily, assist in the creation of the Tenth Symphony, as it was written in the wake of the beast's death, in 1953. To be sure, this work was hardly lighter than the Fourth and the central Scherzo is one of those raging, brutal moments for which Shostakovitch is so well-known; but the third movement, terrifically lyrical, blows away the clouds of the second, with the famous DSCH signature theme, which seems to open a new era. The Russian National Orchestra, founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev – winner of the first prize in the 1978 Tchaikovsky Competition, and who conducts this recording – is very much at work in their element here. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 11, 2019 | PentaTone

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