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Rachmaninov: Symphony No 2; Liadov: The Enchanted Lake / Pappano

Release Date: 04/05/2011 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 49462  
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovAnatole Liadov
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Conductor Antonio Pappano leads Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia on this recording of one of the 20th century’s most thrilling and emotive symphonies, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2. This is coupled with Anatoly Liadov’s beautiful tone poem The Enchanted Lake. Rachmaninov’s symphony and Liadov’s tone poem continue the Russian theme of two of Pappano’s and the Orchestra’s previous releases: Tchaikovsky Fantasies and Overtures and Symphonies Nos. 4-6, about which The Observer reported, “These sweeping performances show how swiftly Pappano has forged a rapport with his superb Roman players, bringing an unusually Italianate passion to the brooding Russian intensity.”

R E V I E W S:

I’m not
Read more sure when I last enjoyed a reading of the Rachmaninov Second Symphony so much. There are many greater orchestras than the Santa Cecilia, but they play here as if possessed; the brass are on especially magnificent form. The recording is occasionally a little muddy, and as a performance this lacks the gloss of André Previn with the LSO (EMI) or the last ounce of Russianness that Kurt Sanderling’s authoritative 1956 reading gives it (DG); but by heaven, Antonio Pappano invests the piece with a passionate sense of belief.

He seems to have the tumultuous coda of the finale in his mind from the work’s very opening bars. The big first movement is kept on a firm rein, and sounds for once entirely inevitable, even majestic in its progress. An unusually fiery account of the scherzo keeps up the tension: I particularly liked the dramatic way Pappano handles the transition to the scherzo-reprise. Principal clarinetist Alessandro Carbonare is exemplary on the long and haunting solo in the slow movement, and the emotional build-up in the finale, OTT big tune and all, is for once entirely believable. It’s a live performance, and the whoop of audience applause at the end is entirely merited.

For once this apparently over- crafted and over-plush Symphony sounds the equal of the more imaginative Nos 1 and 3. The filler, a beautifully delicate account of Liadov’s Enchanted Lake, is also well worth having.

-- Calum MacDonald, BBC Muisc Magazine [4/2011]



RACHMANINOFF Symphony No. 2. LIADOV The Enchanted Lake Antonio Pappano, cond; Santa Cecilia Academy O EMI 49462 2 (66:45) Live: Rome 2009

Back in Fanfare 30:5, I raved about Antonio Pappano’s CD of Tchaikovsky overtures and fantasias; I found his readings of the last three symphonies (30:6) well played but somewhat less compelling. This live performance of Rachmaninoff’s larger-than-life Second Symphony, like the first Tchaikovsky disc, is a stunner. Lasting just over an hour, it is an expansive reading, with none of the hurried quality that characterized the Tchaikovsky symphonies. The Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra plays superbly, and the sound quality is outstanding for a concert recording.

As with many versions of the Rachmaninoff Second, the introduction is an accurate indicator of the nature of this performance. Pappano allows plenty of time for Rachmaninoff’s luxuriant ideas to unfold; his shaping of the music is dynamic and flexible, but never arbitrary or distorted. The main body of the movement is eventful but not over-interpreted; Pappano takes almost too much ritardando just before the closing theme in the cellos, but pulls it off—something perhaps better fitting a live performance than a studio recording. There is no exposition repeat; neither, thankfully, is there the popular but gratuitous timpani thwack at the end of the movement.

Pappano’s attacca into the second movement comes as a surprise, but makes perfect sense; the first movement ends with a resounding low E in the cellos and basses, and the Scherzo begins with a unison E in the violins; the E links the two movements, and is the taking-off point for a stepwise descent to the Scherzo’s key of A Minor.

The third movement is played as a true Adagio. Pappano shapes the music beautifully over long spans, some of his ritardandos seeming almost to stop the musical motion completely. Clarinetist Alessandro Carbonare plays the long opening solo with stunning breath control, and with a lovely, full, but focused sound. This is truly gorgeous music-making.

The Finale avoids being fussy on the one hand and going on autopilot on the other. The broad final statement of the symphony’s motto in the brass, immediately before the coda, may be just a bit much, but in the moment it works. The audience, scarcely detectable throughout, breaks into immediate and robust applause.

Some of the unorthodox touches may keep this from being my first-choice Rachmaninoff Second, but it’s certainly in the same league as the 1973 readings of Ormandy and Previn. Pride of place in my collection still goes to David Zinman’s Telarc CD with the Baltimore Symphony, which has the additional virtues of the exposition repeat and stunning sonics. Pappano is a definite keeper, though.

What to say, then, of Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake ? It’s placed first on the disc, and may be too quiet and motionless to be a satisfactory preparation for the Rachmaninoff, but it’s lovely. This CD’s a winner.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in E minor, Op. 27 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1907; Russia 
The enchanted lake, Op. 62 by Anatole Liadov
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1909; Russia 

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