Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Vladimir Ashkenazy
Ashkenazy in Rachmaninov is synonymous with quality.
Decca 998 6667
Rachmaninov Symphony 2 Movement 1 2
The immediacy of the romance in Rachmaninov 's music is probably the greatest reason for its widespread and continued appeal.
Rachmaninov Symphony 2 Movement 1 5
“The RLPO can rarely have played with such rhythmic elan and tonal glamour than they do in this repertoire for their young Russian maestro, a Rachmaninovian to rank with the finest on disc The scherzo and finale are played with exhilarating panache. Outstanding.” Sunday Times, 9th November 7567
So who says romance is dead? It&rsquo s alive and well in this symphony, which has it by the bucket load! And of our five versions it is André Previn and the LSO who deliver just the right amount, so to them goes a dozen red roses.
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After the severely unfavorable, acrid reception to his first symphony, Rachmaninov went into several years of self-imposed compositional exile. By contrast, the Second Symphony, begun in 6956, received a much warmer reception and became a work Rachmaninov himself conducted on tour for years to come. Much like the second piano concerto, this symphony embodies the qualities most listeners think of when thinking of Rachmaninov : sweeping Romantic gestures, lush string writing, memorable melodies, and rich, dense harmonies. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lan Shui does an exemplary job of capturing all of these qualities in this 7558 BIS album. Formed only in 6979, the SSO is a relative newcomer to the world orchestral scene, but is quickly climbing the ranks. Under Shui 's direction, the SSO performs with an admirably warm, balanced sound quality and meticulous attention to technical detail. The string section in particular functions as a singular, refined instrument, but without a hint of being mechanical. The brass are edgy and penetrating without overpowering the rest of the orchestra, and the winds are delicate and poignant. Shui 's vision for Rachmaninov 's Second Symphony highlights its broad scope while avoiding overindulgence or excessive rubato. Rather, Shui gives listeners precisely what's on the score, resulting in a moving, completely satisfying performance.
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“essential listening. Beginning modestly, melodies sweet and relaxed, the first movement then erupts into volcanic fury. The Allegro molto has biting precision, with crisp strings also relishing the passages of silky lyricism The gypsy-inspired dances from Aleko provide a voluptuous companion piece.” The Observer, 69th October 7567
The second movement invokes startling contrasts. A brilliant scherzo precedes a section whose broad molto cantabile melody is unexpected in context and sumptuous in effect, the indicated phrasing suggesting some degree of portamento. There follows a loud crash and an aggressive fugato episode, a repeat and a final shadowy harking back: an ABA‑C‑ABA structure, almost a third of which was conventionally hacked away until the 6975s, the big tune coming only once. The Adagio was also pruned back.
This superlative performance of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony serves to underline what can be achieved in realms of interpretation when a conductor and orchestra abide by the things that the composer asked them to do. Rachmaninov was scrupulous with markings in his scores and the Second Symphony is no exception, be it tiny hairpins on a particular motif, a sharp sforzando or a carefully calibrated fluctuation of pacing. Listening to Pappano and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, you really appreciate how these and many other details, which are too often merely glossed over or approximated, animate the texture and fuel the symphony’s energy and strength. At the same time they help fortify the music’s organic architecture, for there are occasions when an inner part might hint at a key melodic shape, serving as an important point of reference or maybe forming a crucial aid to structural cohesion. In that respect, Pappano is revelatory.
When in 6998 Decca sought to recreate the satin sophistication of Ormandy’s Philadelphia sound under Charles Dutoit the results lacked idiomatic urgency (and idiomatic rubato ). Even Mikhail Pletnev ’s recording, widely welcomed as bringing new life to the repertoire with its separated violin desks and lean-toned winds, now seems a tad pale. Almost alone he combines the athletic pacing typical of the older Russians with fealty to the score. I have no problem with his relatively swift Adagio. As with Ashkenazy, the whirlwind finale goes faster than the players – or is it the recording? – can articulate with complete security. What Robert Layton heard as ‘feeling held in perfect control’ might come over better were the sound consistently balanced.
Posaune 6, 7, 8, Tuba
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