Under the baton of the French conductor, cellist and pianist Lionel Bringuier, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra performs Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.6 in B minor "Pathétique", Op.74. The concert was recorded at Alte Oper Frankfurt, on November 15, 2013.
Tchaikovsky composed the Symphony No.6 in B minor between February and August 1893, and conducted the first performance on October 28 of that year in St Petersburg. Already in 1890 Tchaikovsky had written to his patroness of 13 years, Nadezhda von Meck, about a possible "Program Symphony". By 1893 he was ready to follow through on the idea, dedicated to his nephew Vladimir Davidov, the "Bobyk" (or "Bob") of many diary-entries and letters during the 1880s. After a successful premiere, however, he was not satisfied with Program Symphony (No.6) on the title page. Several days later Modest suggested "patetichesky", which in Russian means "(1) enthusiastic, passionate, (2) emotional, and (3) bombastic" (rather than "pathetic" or "arousing pity," as in English). Pyotr Ilyich was delighted by the suggestion: "Excellent, Modya, bravo, patetichesky!". He wrote this onto the score, and sent it the same day to his publisher, Jurgenson. Two days later, however, he had qualms and asked Jurgenson to suppress subtitles – to issue the work simply as Symphony No.6, dedicated to Bobyk. One week later, he was dead. As for Jurgenson, he could not resist the opportunity in 1893 to publish No.6, in elegant Lingua Franca, as Symphonie pathétique. The sobriquet has stuck ever since.
During the work's incubation Tchaikovsky was in rare good spirits, pleased with his boldness and fluency, especially in the trailblazing finale, a drawn-out Adagio of funereal character. Where others still wrote conventional slow movements, he hit on the idea of "a limping waltz" in 5/4 time. And he made the scherzo a march that builds to such a pitch of excitement that audiences ever since, everywhere, applaud at the end.
A lugubrious Adagio prologue begins with a bassoon solo in E minor that makes its way upward through the murk of divisi string basses, followed by a nervous little motif that blossoms into the main theme of an Allegro ma non troppo sonata-structure in B minor. The memorably sighing, mauve-hued melody that dominates this movement is actually its secondary subject. A crashing orchestral tutti sets up the passionately agitated development section, followed by a condensed reprise and a brief, calmed coda.
Tchaikovsky's marking for this D major "waltz" movement is Allegro con grazia – a song and trio with extended coda whose mood may be wistful, even melancholic midway, but whose spirit is balletic, to the extent of echoing Nutcracker's "Waltz of the Flowers", composed a year earlier.
The March-Scherzo, Allegro molto vivace in common time, has an elfin character at the start. It is a sonatina (exposition and reprise without development) that quick-steps to an explosive climax but always returns to tonic G major.
Another sonatina (symphonic developments were Tchaikovsky's bête noire) is anchored in B minor, although the tragic second theme enters in D major. The overall mood is inconsolably grieving, but not "pathetic". Ultimately, the music returns to those murky depths in which the symphony was born some 40 minutes earlier – without, however, benediction or hope.
Source: Roger Dettmer (allmusic.com)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
♪ Symphony No.6 in B minor "Pathétique", Op.74 (1893)
i. Adagio – Allegro non troppo
ii. Allegro con grazia
iii. Allegro molto vivace
iv. Finale. Adagio lamentoso
hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Conductor: Lionel Bringuier
Alte Oper Frankfurt, November 15, 2013
Lionel Bringuier (b. 1986, Nice, France) is the fourth child in a family of musicians, including his brother Nicolas Bringuier, a pianist. At age 5, Bringuier began musical studies at the Nice conservatory, where he won several first prizes. At age 13, in February 2000, he was admitted to the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris, where he continued his studies in cello and in conducting. His teachers there have included Philippe Muller. At the Conservatoire de Paris, he then began conducting studies, where his teachers included Zsolt Nagy. Bringuier graduated cum laude from the Conservatoire de Paris with diplomas in cello studies and conducting in June 2004. Bringuier has performed in a cello-piano duo with his brother Nicolas.
In 2005, Bringuier became assistant conductor with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. That same year, he won the 49th International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors. In 2007, Bringuier became associate conductor of the Orchestre de Bretagne. In the USA, Bringuier took up the post of assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007, appointed by Esa-Pekka Salonen. During the subsequent music directorship of Gustavo Dudamel, Bringuier was promoted to associate conductor, and later, to resident conductor (the first person to hold this title in the orchestra's history). He stood down from this post after the 2012-2013 season.
From 2009 to 2012, Bringuier was Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León (Valladolid, Spain). Bringuier first guest-conducted the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich in November 2011, and returned in June 2012. In October 2012, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich named Bringuier as its next chief conductor and music director, as of the 2014-2015 season, with an initial contract of 4 years. In August 2016, the orchestra announced that Bringuier is to conclude his tenure with the Tonhalle Orchestra at the end of his current contract, at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Bringuier has made commercial recordings of music of Vincent D'Indy with the Orchestre de Bretagne for the Timpani Records label, and of music of Camille Saint-Saëns with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France for the Erato label.
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