Conductor: Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
Label: IMP Classics
Catalog #: PCD 904
Time: 66:13 min
SPARS Code: DDD
Grady Harp (Amazon Reviewer)
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943) was an anachronistic bridge between the 19th and 20th centuries. Deeply rooted in Romanticism he was a quiet introspective man who ignored the very beginnings of music revolution that began with Debussy and rapidly morphed into the 'enlightened greats' such as Schoneberg, Webern, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, etc who elected to follow the path of progress toward the new sounds and techniques of composition that challenged the very foundation of Romanticism. Rachmaninov refused to desert his deep feelings that music should convey the soul, the life and the experiences of the composer, choosing to continue to write in the manner of melody that was losing popularity among the cognoscenti. His music was relegated to the dark bin of retrograde, heart-on-the-sleeve, indulgent 'movie music' during his time - and that prejudice continues to some degree today. It takes a live performance of the original unabridged version of the great Symphony No.2 in E minor to open the eyes and ears of modern listeners to appreciate just what a fine orchestrator and master of melody Rachmaninov was.
This recording with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky conducting the London Symphony Orchestra is one of the few single recordings of the hour long, unabridged E minor symphony. This is the version Rachmaninov always conducted even though he did sanction his own abbreviated version for other conductors. Rozhdestvensky pulls out all the stops here, yielding to the pulsating melodies and allowing all of the inner voices of the huge score to sing. This is a performance more devoted to the grand sweep of the work than to dallying with details and the result is a performance that truly moves.
But as mentioned above it takes a live performance to completely appreciate the magnitude of the work. At a recent concert this listener heard Guest Conductor Paavo Jarvi conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an exceptional evening of respect for Rachmaninov. Jarvi fully understands the work as well as any conductor today, allowing the surges of melody to completely fill the acoustically perfect Disney Hall, and at the same time giving the orchestra the chance to hear itself in the myriad dialogues Rachmaninov wrote. It was an evening of rapture and one that must be recorded, as it would be the front-runner of performances of this truly great symphony. Until then, this recording is a viable alternative. Recommended. Grady Harp, April 06.
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