As anyone will know who has heard St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra with its artistic director, they have a symbiotic relationship that works best in their native repertoire, where the orchestra’s dark lustre is handsomely profiled. On this DVD, documenting concerts last year in Paris, Gergiev unusually conducts with a baton and creates performances that are both well contoured and emotionally charged. The camera catches all his characteristic poses and photo-frames the pizzicato workings of the Fourth Symphony’s third movement in welcome detail.
The Mariinsky musicians have played this repertoire so often that they could probably do it in their sleep, but there’s no sense of routine. It’s hard, nevertheless, to see what the film adds to our knowledge of Gergiev or Tchaikovsky. The focus on the orchestra’s glinting brass and the conductor’s stubble only detracts from the inner life of the music – a problem that crops up with all concerts on DVD (an honourable exception being filmed performances of the late Carlos Kleiber). Unless you are such a Gergiev fan that you need to see him sweating on the podium, it’s best to stick with the audio versions he has already made.
Tchaikovsky Symphonies 4, 5, 6