"In Manfred, Petrenko’s first Tchaikovsky recording on Naxos, the talented young Russian conductor draws a suitably drak timbre from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, imbuing it with some of the qualities associated with a Russian orchestra—string portamenti, screaming winds, passion-and-colour."
Financial Times - October 2008
"This outstanding performance of Tchaikovsky’s Byronic symphony-cum-searching character study is matched by the sinister undercurrents of his symphonic ballad The Voyevoda. Manfred’s conflicts of joy and despair, doubt and elation, which were qualities that Tchaikovsky shared in his own psyche, are perceptively probed by Vasily Petrenko and an RLPO on top form. Emotional weight is never inflated. Even the potentially grandiose organ in the final bars provokes a genuine thrill in a performance which, through sensitivity of nuance and powerful playing, draws you deep inside Manfred’s world of suffering. This is essential listening."
The Daily Telegraph - October 2008
"... highly recommended." ****
The Guardian - October 2008
"Since his appointment as conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko has transformed the Merseyside orchestral scene, as this splendid performance and recording of the Manfred Symphony shows. The playing has the glow and swagger of an orchestra with supreme confidence in itself and its young Russian conductor. The Byronic first movement has sonorous power to contrast with the delicacy of the apparition of the witch of the Alps in the spray of a rainbow." ****
Sunday Telegraph - October 2008
"A remarkable disc of Tchaikovsky’s ’problem child’—at a price that’s right
Petrenko’s Manfred emerges from the gothic greys of the opening wind chorale to vent his heartache in an emotive surge of string sound. And to ensure that we’ve grasped the measure of his despair, he repeats himself. Petrenko’s Byronic petulance makes something really stirring of the self-loathing Tchaikovsky’s as much as that of Byron’s antihero. But the real miracle of this first movement is the vision of idealised love emerging so tenderly in what one might normally call the development. The palest clarinet against muted tremolando strings takes us directly to the heart of the matter, and Petrenko and his orchestra don’t disappoint. Likewise in the epic coda, where anguish is again writ large in overreaching horns and trumpets. No superfluous tam-tam, thankfully.
The dazzling apparitions of the second movement’s light-catching waterfall are sharply etched, and if Petrenko has a rather leisurely idea of what constitutes Andante con moto in the third movement, he can’t be blamed for loving this vintage Tchaikovsky melody too much. The playing, again, is lovely. Petrenko also keeps his head in the inferno of the finale, emphasising Tchaikovsky the classicist in the hard-working fugue. The "phantom" organ, though impressively caught here, gets no better, but is quickly forgotten amid the serenity of the final pages.
The opening pages of The Voyevoda seem to suggest a psychological summit meeting between Manfred and Hermann from The Queen of Spades. Its galloping obsessiveness ratchets up the torment again. The bass clarinet gives everyone the evil eye; no wonder Tchaikovsky tried to destroy it. This is impressive—and, at Naxos’s pricing, not to be missed."
Gramophone - January 2009
"Written in 1885, between the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred remains uncanonically numbered, perhaps justly so, because it is more a multi-movement symphonic poem. The composer was ambivalent about the quality of the music, calling it variously, his finest orchestral work and “an abominable piece”. He even contemplated destroying it. With its brooding tone and the predominant bass-baritonal darkness of its orchestration, Manfred is gaining ground as one of Tchaikovsky’s most original masterpieces, thanks to evangelizing performances such as this one from the charismatic Petrenko, who sets his musicians alight in the dramatic passages of the score while bringing a truly Russian melancholy to the introductory lento lugubre. A thrilling Naxos debut." ****
The Sunday Times - October 2008
"I have met Mr Petrenko and enjoyed his work more than once, but I did not expect him to outshine Muti or Svetlanov—nor does he. But he does give us the best new recording of this [the Manfred Symphony] in 20 years. The Liverpool orchestra is not as Russian sounding as Svetlanov’s or as beautiful as Muti’s Philharmonia, but they do fine work here. And Naxos hasn’t the refinement of sound EMI gave Muti, but it’s pretty strong and impressive (and Muti’s organ was weak)…Tchaikovsky did not like his tone-poem, The Voyevoda, and never published it and threatened to tear it up after he conducted it. But the composer would certainly have more faith in his work if he heard Mr Petrenko conduct it. This is the best Voyevoda I have heard—though the piece will never be top-drawer Tchaikovsky. It is also the fastest, by far."
Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide - March 2009
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