Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor Op. 17 (1872, revised 1879/80) “Little Russian”
Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Original First Movement) 1872
Conductor: Mikhail Pletnev
Part of the RNO's Tchaikovsky Cycle
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes



I doubt if there is a more articulate performance [of Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 2] to be found at the present time. Pristine of texture and lithe of rhythm, the quality of the playing and engineering acts like a steam clean on the piece. The beauty and agility of the woodwind-playing is a joy... Pletnev and his band dispatch [the] finale with a keenness which keeps the bombast at bay, piccolo twirling the baton towards the mighty bell-like tam-tam stroke. I don't think I've ever heard the final pages more exciting, a ratcheting-up of the tempo that makes fine art of grandstanding.

International Record Review

...a recording which tops [Pletnev's] previous version and is as convincing an advocate for this underrated symphony as I can imagine. The playing is highly polished, fine French horn and bassoon solos... lissome string playing and an incisive piccolo... PentaTone's splendid recording does it full justice, with vivid percussion... the timpani volley at the end of the finale's introduction is thrillingly captured. Pletnev's tempos are perfectly judged...

Classical Candor

By the time the opening movement reaches its second theme Allegro vivo, Pletnev has worked up a suitably red-blooded passion... Then in the second movement we hear even more of the Russian folk-inflected music for which fans know the work... In the Scherzo Pletnev propels the music forward with particular vigor... It’s in the Finale that Pletnev comes into his own... there is a grandiloquent element here that Pletnev catches well, with energy aplenty.

Atlanta Audio Society

Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony... is so familiar... that it is easy to conflate the various competing performances and come to the conclusion that there is little difference between them.... The difference becomes apparent only when you have a conductor and an ensemble as well-versed on their Tchaikovsky symphonies as are Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra... From the point of view of the orchestra, firmly focused tone and the willingness to play with abandon when the score requires it are essential requisites. From the evidence of this recording, Pletnev and the RNO really have it.

Pletnev's nimble approach has a clarity of interpretation…. The Russian National Orchestra's exquisite woodwinds express relaxed, concise characters… Best of all is the rhythmic agility with which Pletnev develops his tight, sharply cut themes and motifs. Very elegant and incredibly lucid sound.

Pletnev directs an affectionate and unfussy reading of Tchaikovsky's engaging score and elicits thrilling playing from all sections of the RNO.... A constant factor in this PentaTone cycle has been not only the exceptional playing of the RNO but the superb sound quality with which the Polyhymnia engineers have graced these recordings... Elegant playing from the woodwind is beautifully captured as is the rasp of the weighty Russian brass section and the slam of the powerful percussion. All in all a marvellous disc!

Audiophile Audition

... a crackerjack Second.... Pletnev knows how to build to the big chorale, scurry long with the many string whirlwinds ever-present in the piece, and give us brassy blow-you-away entrances. [There] is no quarter to slackness or mellowness; he treats this work as the blockbuster it is, and in the end we come away very satisfied.

What They’re Saying

"Classical music [has the] singular power to transform, unite and liberate. There is perhaps no orchestra in the world that personifies those ideals like the RNO."

Palm Beach Illustrated