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Rachmaninov: Symphony no 2, Vocalise, / André Previn, LSO

Release Date: 09/14/1999 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 66997   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This was a hallmark recording in 1973 in that the symphony was played in its complete version without the disfiguring cuts that even Rachmaninov had sanctioned (although according to Previn he only really approved a small cut in the finale -- in a previous LSO recording for RCA LSO Previn had made all the usual cuts). It makes for a long work (nearly an hour) and that has been said to be too long for a composer of such limited ability. Well I think I can answer that simply by pointing to Schubert's 9th symphony or Elgar's second without having to invoke Mahler or Bruckner. What matter is not the length but the invention. The reference to limited ability is that Rachmaninov appeared to constantly mine the same vein without ever developing Read more and it was surely the Previn series of Rachmaninov recordings that helped to dispel that belief too, followed eventually by a re-evaluation in the more louring Ashkenazy series for Decca which reached a peak with his performance of the Isle of the Dead.

Previn and the LSO were at their peak and had toured this symphony internationally before setting it on record. Previn has said 'one of the most unforgettable events of my musical life was seeing members of the Moscow audience, openly and unabashedly weeping during the performance. After the concert had ended, the orchestra and I came out of the stage door into the icy street, where people were still waiting for us. A young woman came forward, and, in a mixture of broken English and French, thanked us for the Rachmaninov. Then she gave me a gift, a token of her gratitude to Rachmaninov: one orange, for which she had, without a doubt, queued quite a time that afternoon.'

Rachmaninov writes a good tune and all praise to him. He also writes orgasmically for soaring and cascading strings and it might be the association with Mantovani that causes critics to sneer. A composer of good tunes who is 'Popular' will never do and those Paganini Variations! Well, of course, I am playing the Devil's advocate because I love Rachmaninov. He is not only the ultimate romantic composer but can also be extraordinarily powerful (Isle of the Dead or the Symphonic Dances). To me his appeal is limitless rather than limited and I look back with nostalgia at this recording. It is well known that Rachmaninov's first symphony was a disaster at its first performance and instituted a creative block in the composer that lasted several years until his confidence was restored by the success of his second Piano concerto. The second symphony was completed in 1907; 12 years after the first and found the appreciation he craved.

From the very opening one is immediately aware of the performance Previn will produce. The symphony opens with a motto theme in the double basses and cellos that occurs throughout the symphony making it a unified whole. Violins and woodwinds have two more motto themes and they all play an important part in all movements of the symphony. Straight away we are into those swaying, cascading strings that remain for ever in the memory. Not that many symphonies have such a memorable opening, one that immediately makes one want to dance and to sing. It is important not to rush this and Previn's gently elongated approach serves Rachmaninov well (in the later Telarc recording Previn takes even longer over this movement). There is a feeling of one-ness between orchestra and conductor which is the hallmark of a great recording. But it is surely the adagio that will convert the listener with Jack Brymer's clarinet weaving a hypnotic melody over lush strings that will eventually soar into a very Tchaikovskian climax.

. . .

The performance is overpoweringly convincing and worth every penny of the mid-price demanded. A further advantage of the reissue is that the symphony is now joined by Vocalise and the Intermezzo and Women's Dance from Aleko making a very full disc.

-- Len Mullenger, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in E minor, Op. 27 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1907; Russia 
Date of Recording: 01/1973 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 59 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Date of Recording: 10/1975 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1912 - 1915). 
Aleko: Intermezzo by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 12/09/1976 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Aleko: Women's Dance by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/1976 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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