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Rachmaninov: Symphony No.1, The Rock / Weller, L?orchestre De La Suisse Romande, LPO

Release Date: 08/15/2005 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4767724   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraSuisse Romande Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Walter Weller's idiosyncratic Symphony No. 1 makes its welcome first appearance on CD. This is a highly volatile rendition, with Weller keenly attuned to the music's every shift in mood and color yet always keeping within the larger context and spirit of the work. The first movement's opening is arrestingly dramatic, with bold-sounding brass and percussion. Throughout the work Weller underlines Rachmaninov's often frenzied string writing with urgent tempos and razor-sharp phrasing. The climax of the scherzo is exciting, as is the whole of the finale (with prominent tam-tam at the conclusion). Weller is a bit heavy-handed in the Larghetto, but nonetheless he presents the music with much sensitivity and textural beauty. The highly motivated Read more Suisse Romande orchestra keeps up with Weller's demanding pace, providing first-rate playing even if it can't match the polished execution of the Concertgebouw for Ashkenazy. Neither can the recording, which is on the dry side with some dynamic limitation. However, the sound is noticeably more open for the coupled The Rock--another excellent Weller rendition, this time with the London Philharmonic. In all, this is a fine Rachmaninov disc, especially at the Eloquence price.

--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com

Another hit from Down Under. Not by Kletzki this time, but his successor in Geneva, Walter Weller. Decca had the Kletzki Rachmaninov cycle under way when the conductor (Paul Kletzki) died, thus preventing its completion, and also leaving a hole in the Suisse Romande’s podium. The orchestra was very lucky to find a worthy replacement in the person of Walter Weller, who, based upon the evidence of this disc, continued the work first started by Paul Kletzki very effectively. Decca, who had been in progress with Kletzki to record the Rachmaninov cycle were thwarted by the conductor’s death and started another cycle with Walter Weller, which happily was completed and issued in LP format in the early 1970s. Eloquence has used Weller’s performance of No.1 to complement the other two Kletzki-conducted discs issued also this month.

Walter Weller then completed further recordings of orchestral pieces with the LPO, one of which is coupled with the Symphony. If I say that this performance of the First is closer than any others I know to Ormandy’s version on Sony, I can give it no higher praise. Once again the playing of the Suisse Romande is superb, and follows on the good work that Kletzki started.

The only drawback is that Eloquence, having issued Nos. 2 and 3 in the Kletzki interpretations is unlikely, I would think, to release the Weller performances. That’s a shame as these are all superb.

Rachmaninov’s First was a major event in the composer’s career. The premiere was completely savaged by the critics, and this caused the composer’s mental breakdown and his withdrawal from composition for a number of years. Helped by the efforts of Dr. Dahl, and the Second Piano Concerto, he was rehabilitated, and went on to compose many other masterpieces. The First Symphony has been tainted with the effect of its birth for many years. It was not until the score was re-constituted from its orchestral parts that we were able to experience this superb symphony for ourselves.

The finale became well known in the UK when the finale was chosen as the signature tune of a BBC current affairs programme in the 1970s. Since then there have been many fine recordings, and this one is no exception. As with Kletzki, the playing of the Suisse Romande is absolutely superb, and as with the Concertgebouw on the other discs, one would be hard pressed to tell the Swiss band from its London or Amsterdam-based counterparts.

The Rock, an extremely early work of the composer does not have the following of its contemporary works, and it is little thought of. This is of small consequence, given the blazing conviction of this performance. Rather than join the detractors, I would rather side with Tchaikovsky, who was said to like the work immensely and had requested permission from the composer to conduct it.

Eloquence can be immensely proud of their Rachmaninov Symphony cycle – I will be returning to it often.

John Phillips, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

The Rock, Op. 7 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Symphony no 1 in D minor, Op. 13 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895; Russia 

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