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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > The Tchaikovsky Cycle (6 DVD set/Naxos/Arthaus Musik)

The Tchaikovsky Cycle (6 DVD set/Naxos/Arthaus Musik)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Main Programs:  A-

 

 

Naxos has released through their Arthaus Musik label perhaps one of the finest performances of Tchaikovsky, dating back to 1991 at the Alte Oper Frankfurt with conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra.  While each of these volumes was released individually, this entire set takes all six volumes and puts them together in a must-have collection for any Tchaikovsky fan (who likely already understands the value of this recording), but also for any serious classical lover. 

 

The reason for this is simple, to date you simply won’t find a finer production that covers as much material as this, the set also features Mikhail Pletnev on piano, who commands the material with a highly dedicated force; it’s masterful, colorful, and finesse.  This set also includes some of the most prolific of Tchaikovsky’s work and includes a symphony on each disc, plus excerpts from other work as well.  In total we get 630-minutes of pure Tchaikovsky bliss! 

 

There are several things to point out with regards to this set from a technical standpoint as well, the first is that the discs are formatted for Region 0, which means they can be played worldwide, with the exception of PAL formatted TVs.  Also noteworthy are the technical aspects of the DVD’s, which are all presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio.  Lately we have been truly spoiled with the Blu-ray format; especially the material being released through Naxos, you can read about those reviews here:

 

Swan Lake

 

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1-6

 

 

Naturally we are aware of the differences that quickly come between the format of DVD and Blu-ray, so we understand that a recording like this and transfer will feel dated on arrival.  Presented in full-frame, and recording in 1991 the image does look a few generations old, it’s evident early on that detail and definition will be at a middle level in comparison to what newer productions, especially shot in HD, can look, especially when released on an HD format.  It will be interesting to see if this fantastic production does get the Blu-ray treatment at some time, the result would certainly be worth it! 

 

While the picture has its limitations, the more important facet in this production is the sound quality, which is presented here with three audio options: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and PCM stereo.  Unfortunately I was not able to find any information inside the package that detailed the actual recording process, but it is still evident that the best recording measures of the time were taken to get the finest capture of this pinnacle moment.  That being said, the changes in technology have also increased since 1991 and again formats like Blu-ray now offer lossless audio. 

 

The DTS 5.1 mix is perhaps the most articulate out of the three; it is certainly clearer and more pronounced than the Dolby Digital 5.1 counterpart and offers greater range and depth.  The PCM 2.0 is a little tamer in nature, but also feels more relaxed and natural.  I think it’s probably fair to say that this recording was not envisioned for multi-channel and while the 5.1 mixes are adequate, it feels forced.  The 2.0 feels ‘right’ by comparison.  Overall all three mixes feel a bit distant in nature, especially compared to what Blu-ray can offer, which the best way to describe is more ‘live-like’.  Here the mix feels limited, even with some great dynamic moments, it feels constrained.  We understand though that these are not technical glitches, but rather limitations with the format and the date of the material. This does not really hinder the fine performance though, which only shows just how strong that truly was/is.  It also demonstrates just how fantastic it is to now have Blu-ray, which gives superior picture and sound and allows the viewer/listener to feel like they are actually there live.  

 

The box set is broke down into the following six volumes…

 

Volume One:

 

Symphony No. 1 in G minor Op. 13 “Winter Daydreams”

Francesca da Rimini Op. 32

Variations on a Rococo Theme for Violoncello and Orchestra Op. 33

 

Volume Two:

 

Symphony No. 2 in C minor Op. 17 “Little Russian”

Excerpts from the opera “Eugene Onegin”

 

Volume Three:

 

Symphony No. 3 in D major Op. 29 “Polish”

Excerpts from “Swan Lake”

Concert Fantasia for piano and orchestra in G major Op. 56

 

Volume Four:

 

Symphony No. 4 in F minor Op. 36

“The Year 1812”, Festival Overture in E-flat major Op. 49

Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35

 

Volume Five:

 

Symphony No. 5 in E minor Op. 64

Overture in F major

Piano concerto No. 2 in G major Op. 44

 

Volume Six:

 

Symphony No. 6 in B minor Op. 74 “Pathetique”

Serendade for String Orchestra in C major Op. 48

Piano Concerto NO. 1 in B-flat minor Op. 23

 

We also covered Tchaikovsky in a variety of other forms, including the following:

 

The Seasons (SACD)

 

Symphony’s No. 5 & 6 (DTS CD)

 

Tchaikovsky: The Tragic Life of a Music Genius

 

Tchaikovsky – Romeo & Juliet/Hamlet (SACD)

 

Each DVD within this set also includes a booklet that details the material and includes information on both Fedoseyev and Pletnev, which is identical on each disc since these were originally stand-alone volumes available separately.

 

 

-   Nate Goss


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