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Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, The Bells / Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic

Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 845192   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Luba OrgonasovaDmitri PopovMikhail Petrenko
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These two live performances are astoundingly fine. Simon Rattle made an impressive recording of the Symphonic Dances early in his career in Birmingham. It was a short disc in terms of playing time (the coupling was the Vocalise) and an early EMI digital recording, and perhaps for that reason it was never released on CD. That version was notable for its deliberate tempos, but this one is up to speed. Perhaps Rattle learned the piece in the meantime; the same phenomenon characterized some of his Sibelius performances as well.

Whatever the reason, this is an excellent interpretation, perhaps the best Rattle and Berlin have yet recorded. The playing is exceptional, that typical Berlin smoothness never smothering the textures in
Read more an excess of timbral homogeneity. The first movement’s difficult-to-interpret “non allegro” is perfectly paced, and punchily accented. The ensuing waltz is both sexy and sinister, while the finale has plenty of excitement, with the slow central episode particularly well sustained. The coda is aptly blazing, with a healthy swat on the tam-tam left to die away gradually, as it should.

If anything, The Bells is even better. Spectacularly well sung by the Berlin Radio Choir and a fine trio of soloists (only bass Mikhail Petrenko tends to shout in the finale), Rattle’s performances are as atmospheric and colorful as any on disc. Check out the opening of the third movement (The Alarm Bells) and you’ll immediately understand that nothing here is going to be underplayed. EMI’s live sonics are generally very good—perhaps a bit dull in the high frequencies as a result of the live audience soaking up some of the sound, but still vivid and well-balanced. At last, Rattle and Berlin live up to their storied reputation.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940; USA 
The Bells, Op. 35 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Luba Orgonasova (Soprano), Dmitri Popov (Tenor), Mikhail Petrenko (Bass)
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913; Russia 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Great Acoustics September 25, 2013 By R. Hirst (Salina, KS) See All My Reviews "The clearity of the Symphonic Dances is quite wonderful although it is achieved through spot microphone use which is a bit too obvious. The tempos of the Dances are slower than I have heard, but that detract from the ability of the conductor to make sense of it all. The Bells I had not heard and frankly I don't think much of the piece." Report Abuse
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