Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Francesca da Rimini Russian National Orchestra & Mikhail Pletnev

Cover Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Francesca da Rimini

Album info



Label: PentaTone

Genre: Classical

Subgenre: Orchestral

Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)


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  • Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Symphony No.5in E minor, Op.64
  • 1I. Andante - Allegro con anima14:53
  • 2II. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza13:58
  • 3III. Valse - Allegro moderato05:46
  • 4IV. Finale - Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace12:32
  • 5Francesca da Rimini, Op. 3224:31
  • Total Runtime01:11:40

Info for Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Francesca da Rimini

The second in a new Tchaikovsky Symphonies cycle.

"Just to be clear from the outset, this is not only a great improvement on Mikhail Pletnev’s previous, rather low-voltage account of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (on DG), but an exceptionally fine version. I say this because the opening two and a half minutes are not so promising, with the clarinet melody not quite in tight ensemble with the strings but a fraction ahead, creating a slightly lurching effect. But once the main exposition starts, it’s clear that this is an inspired performance, both purposeful – resulting in a slightly swifter tempo than the previous recording – and fully alive to the music’s emotional thrust: witness how Pletnev reveals the music’s underlying despair by his use of rubato in the molto espressivo episode which ends the first thematic subject.

There’s effective use of contrast too: after the tenebrous, vividly characterised woodwind and string murmurs which end the first movement, the following Andante cantabile opens with a real sense of calm, featuring a splendidly ripe-sounding horn solo (uncredited in the booklet) with just a touch of Russian-style vibrato. While alive to its expression, Pletnev directs the movement with suitable restraint, both confounding the critic Theodor Adorno’s charge that the music is ‘kitsch’ while also increasing the impact of the baleful ‘fate’ episodes.

Pletnev’s programme duplicates Mariss Jansons’s critically acclaimed Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra version (reviewed in February 2011), also in realistic sound. Compared to Jansons’s, Pletnev’s interpretation of the Fifth is generally leaner, with a clearer sense of the essential narrative thread in each movement. While Jansons brings out every incidental detail, Pletnev convincingly builds his performance around one key climax in each movement: the brass in the final climax of the first movement has real punch, and again, in the slow movement, the second sudden appearance of the ‘fate’ theme comes as a genuine shock.

Yet Pletnev and his orchestra never skimp on characterisation. Their performance of Tchaikovsky’s very Lisztian tone poem, Francesca da Rimini, proves not only an excellent showcase for the Russian National Orchestra’s razor-sharp ensemble, but is also a brilliant realisation of Tchaikovsky’s theatrical portrayal of Dante’s hell, vividly characterising both the wailing of the damned and the howling wind in which they are caught. In the central section there is real warmth and sympathy in Pletnev’s (and Tchaikovsky’s) portrayal of the condemned lovers, most seductively drawn by strings and woodwind." (Daniel Jaffé,

Russian National Orchestra
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor

Mikhail Pletnev
After his studies at the Central Special Music School, Mikhail Pletnev entered the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1974, where he studied with Jakob Flier and Lev Vlasenko. Aged only 21, Pletnev was the Gold Medal and First Prize winner of the 1978 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.

He has since appeared as soloist with the major orchestras under conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly, Valery Gergiev, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano and Kurt Sanderling. In 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet system, Mikhail Pletnev was able to realize his dream of forming the Russian National Orchestra. Under his artistic leadership, the RNO has become known as one of the world’s leading orchestras.

Although his conducting career is primarily focused on the RNO, he also makes appearances as a guest-conductor with such prestigious orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Berliner Sinfonieorchester and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In September 1999, Pletnev was appointed the RNO’s Conductor Laureate and his collaboration with the orchestra has continued in many of its recordings and concerts. In February 2003, he conducted the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the Berliner Konzerthaus for the official opening of the Russian Year of Culture.

Mikhail Pletnev’s recordings and live performances as a pianist have proved him an outstanding interpreter of an extensive repertoire. As a composer, Pletnev’s works include the Classical Symphony, Quintet for Piano and Strings, Triptych for Symphony Orchestra, Fantasy on Kazakh Themes for Violin and Orchestra, and Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. In December 1998, the world première of his Concerto for Viola and Orchestra took place in Moscow, with Yuri Bashmet as soloist.

His stature in Russia was formally recognized in 1995, when he was awarded the First State Prize of the Russian Federation by President Yeltsin. In 2002, he again received this honour from President Putin.

The Russian National Orchestra
has been in demand throughout the music world ever since its 1990 Moscow premiere. Of the orchestra’s 1996 debut at the BBC Proms in London, the Evening Standard wrote, “They played with such captivating beauty that the audience gave an involuntary sigh of pleasure.”

The first Russian orchestra to perform at the Vatican and in Israel, the RNO maintains an active international tour schedule, appearing in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Guest artists performing with the RNO on tour include conductors Vladimir Jurowski, Nicola Luisotti, Antonio Pappano, Alan Gilbert and Carlo Ponti, and soloists Martha Argerich, Yefim Bronfman, Lang Lang, Pinchas Zukerman, Sir James Galway and Joshua Bell, among many others. Popular with radio audiences worldwide, RNO concerts are regularly aired by National Public Radio in the United States and by the European Broadcasting Union.

The orchestra has made several recordings for PENTATONE. The RNO’s recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Beintus’s Wolf Tracks, conducted by Kent Nagano and narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, received a 2004 Grammy Award, making the RNO the first Russian orchestra to win the recording industry’s highest honor. The orchestra’s Shostakovich cycle on PENTATONE is widely acclaimed as “the most exciting cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies to be put down on disc, and easily the best recorded” (

A regular visitor to the Schleswig-Holstein, Gstaad and Rheingau festivals, the RNO is also the founding orchestra of Napa Valley Festival del Sole, Festival of the Arts BOCA in Florida, and the Singapore Sun Festival, and resident orchestra for multiple seasons of the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy.

In recognition of both its artistry and path-breaking structure, the Russian Federation recently awarded the RNO the first ever grant to a non-government orchestra.

Booklet for Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Francesca da Rimini

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