Bernstein Conducts the 'Pathetique'
I'm currently listened to this disc, which I acquired today.
When I first heard this performance in 1992, I can recall being deeply unimpressed with what I (then) perceived as Bernstein's wilful way with the score: he was clearly trying to find things in this music that weren't there in the first place- and, in the process, dragging it down to a perpetual crawl, sacrificing momentum for the sake of pinpointing (extraneous) detail.
Well, 19 years on, I can still hear what I objected to, but my perspective must have changed, because I find this performance very convincing indeed.
The Pathetique is often discussed as a 'work of homosexual art' - anyone in the know about Tchaikovsky's reported state of mind when he was composing his final symphony will find it hard not to read an obvious 'programme' to it (in Edmund White's discussion of the work - published I forget where or in what - it is suggested that the first movement depicts two men meeting for an illicit tryst, which is then 'discovered' - bang! Fortissimo! - by 'straight' society and the scandal that ensues: I can't listen to this movement without having White's interpretation in mind, as it seems to fit so well) - so Bernstein, whose tortured struggle with his own sexuality so closely mirrored the composer's own, was probably the ideal person to relate to this work.
Of course, all of LB's later recordings seem to share this expansive approach, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't but always seemed to throw up something of, at least, interest. In the case of this Pathetique, he does manage to convince me - if only for the 58 minutes duration (!) - that this music couldn't be played any other way.
Any thoughts on this performance?