Gergiev conducts Tchaikovsky’s 5th
I love this symphony, and this love originated when I was a member of an orchestra in the 1950’s and we performed this masterpiece. Amazing how I still remember the rehearsals and the performance 58 years later!
For this highly emotional Russian music, what better match is there than the conductor Valery Gergiev, leading a world-class group such as the Vienna Philharmonic? With any other conductor, one might expect a beautiful, but somewhat more conservative performance; under Gergiev, we get all the drama, all the emotion, all the hushed pianissimos that this piece requires.
The darkness at the beginning of the first movement is really foreboding. And as this movement develops, we get all the rich, warm sounds of the strings and the brilliance of the brass. The second movement (andante Cantabile) is indeed singing and hugely melodious. While some current conductors have slowed down the Waltz movement, not so for Gergiev: One feels like getting up, looking for a partner and joining in the dance merriment which Gergiev does in such a charming way!
Then we arrive at the Finale, where — after a dark Andante Maestoso – Gergiev works with the Vienna Philharmonic Timpani to drive the music to an exciting, pulsating end.
I saw an old program of a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic given in the late 1800’s. They played this symphony, which was brand new in those days. The conductor at that concert was none other than Gustav Mahler. Wow… I would have like to be in the last row, as a listener at that concert!