Tchaikovsky’s final symphony is not thought of as forward-looking at all – after all, the composer died nine days after the first performance, and indeed the Pathétique has for years been considered a kind of “suicide note,” especially since Tchaikovsky himself said it had a program that he chose not to reveal. But David Bernard insists that the usual view of this symphony is incorrect, and makes the case in a new Recursive Classics recording with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony that Tchaikovsky’s Sixth is the composer’s reconsideration of his earlier work and a look ahead toward new visions that he did not live to fulfill. The result is a performance in which the structural elements of the music are clearer than usual, unclotted by overweening emotion and expectation of trauma. The first movement is beautiful without sounding cloying, and the second flows with natural grace instead of being almost tripped up by its unusual 5/4 rhythm. Bernard emphasizes the rhythmic vitality rather than the despondency that other conductors embrace.

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