The Audiophile Audition Review of Tchaikovsky Symphonies 4, 5 & 6/Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Johnterryl Plumeri by Gary Lemco
Johnterryl Plumeri is a Hollywood composer of some note (One False Move) as well as a jazz bass player of distinction. He has maintained for twelve years an ongoing relationship with the Moscow Philharmonic which appears to have culminated in these 2005 inscriptions of the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies. I auditioned the Fifth Symphony first, noticing immediately the rather literalist point of view, although Plumeri keeps our attentions focused on the double bass lines, which is his right. The various choirs of the Moscow Philharmonic prove responsive to the rhythmic give-and-take Plumeri exacts from the melodic line. The big French horn solo for the Andante cantabile, I presume, comes from Andrey Romanov, and it shines, answered sweetly by oboe Elizaveta Zueva and bassoon Taras Zhukovskiy. The subsequent interplay of strings, harp, and winds makes tender mercies of Tchaikovsky's singing voice. Nice segue to the more martial section of the movement, cleanly rendered, then impassioned in the grand style, trumpets blazing. Plumeri takes the Valse at a brisk clip, playing it as a balletic entr'acte. The coda, however, assumes a girth and symphonic breadth, dramatically paced. The big ride in the Fifth, of course, is the last movement, especially uncut, and wielded by masters like Mravinsky, Koussevitzky, and Stokowski. Plumeri mounts up maestoso, relishing his bass tones and serpentine woodwind lines. Nice organ sound with pedal tympani just prior to the rush to judgment. Bristling attacks in the trumpets ! Flutist Sergey Turmilov has something to say. The final triumphal march is more Verdi than Wagner, but first and foremost Tchaikovsky.
Plumeri's Pathetique is fashioned in the grand style of the Russian school, the tempos and cadences broad, lingering with melancholy and nostalgia. As per expectation, Plumeri likes to emphasize pedal points in low strings and tympani. The opening section unfolds gently and naturally, the clarinet in high relief. When the sweeping melody returns, Plumeri stretches the phrases even further, shades of Celibidache and Bernstein. The Adagio takes over ten minutes before the fateful hammer blow strikes; when it does, keep your ears glued to the tremolando, diviso strings. The feverish struggle segues into an artful series of transitions back to the four-note fate motif. Sonic separation by Arnie Acosta and Plumeri captures the competing orchestral choirs with particular, pointed resonance. The 5/4 Allegro con grazia proceeds without mannerism, pointing up the exquisite sound of the Moscow woodwinds. Quicksilver staccati and ballet figures for the Scherzo, which has the Moscow brass section in full glory. Plumeri's underlying pulse, once set, proves invariable, something of a Toscanini approach to this brilliant, martial movement with sullen undercurrents. The Allegro lamentoso moves vehemently, unsentimentally forward — still capturing Tchaikovsky's especial effects in horns and battery which provide the haunting sense of tragedy.
The first shall be last: I left the F Minor for my dessert. A Fate symphony in variegated colors, it permits Plumeri and his Moscow Philharmonic any number of shining moments. The flute, winds, and bass fiddle parts which extend the secondary theme segue into the brass fanfares and string rockets with silky fury. Nice bassoon solo to the dance-like episodes with lilting string accompaniment. Lyricism alternates with furious drama in exquisite balance, the Moscow flutes in perfect symmetry of phrase. Kudos for tympanist Alexander Bazik for an album well done. The whole first movement proceeds with an easy, ingenuous grace that belies its nineteen minutes of fierce emotional contrasts. Oboe, violas and cello make for some seductive moments in the Andantino in moto di canzone. The delicate balance between assertive march and plaintive song Plumeri maintains with deft grace. Lovely flute work throughout, extending into really vivid virtuosity in the Scherzo. Plumeri's pizzicato ostinato moves at a pace competitive with Svetlanov, the microphone placement deftly moving us along the continuum of string choirs to the oboe's jaunty march tune. Plumeri himself thanks concertmaster Grigory Krasko for his support in these efforts. A tempestuous cymbal crash sets us off on a merry round for the Allegro con fuoco. It would, I believe, please conductor Plumeri to know I find his readings eminently Russian through and through.