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Rachmaninov: Symphony No 3, Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini / Sudbin, Shui, Singapore Symphony

Rachmaninov / Singapore Sym Orch / Shui
Release Date: 02/28/2012 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1988  
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Yevgeny Sudbin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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SuperAudio CD:  $21.49
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RACHMANINOFF Symphony No. 3. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Lan Shui, cond; Yevgeny Sudbin (pn); Singapore SO BIS 1988 (SACD: 68:32)


From the opening notes of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini , it is clear that this interpretation will be fast, but it does not sound as if it is overdriven because of the quicksilver lightness of Yevgeny Sudbin’s fingerwork and the orchestra’s transparent texture. Things do slow down in the Read more 11th and 12th variations, but the instrumental texture remains light. Of all of Rachmaninoff’s major works, this approach may suit the Rhapsody best because it has little Slavic melancholy or dense and congested orchestration. The darker undertones are allowed to emerge in the 17th variation, but still with the utmost clarity. The 18th variation is quite clear-eyed and moves along, but it does not lack passion as Sudbin makes his interpretive points. The orchestra plays the frequent staccato chords with pinpoint precision. It is all crisp, sparkling, colorful, and restrained. The only thing that Sudbin seems to lack (at least here) is the power that Vladimir Horowitz and Byron Janis generated when they played Rachmaninoff, which makes you wonder how Sudbin would sound in the big concertos. This is a good example of the new, contemporary approach to Rachmaninoff. Yuja Wang and Claudio Abbado take a similar general approach in their critically acclaimed recording, but compared to Sudbin and conductor Lan Shui, Wang and Abbado (dare anyone criticize him?) sound chilly, dry, faceless, and boring. Wang is actually hailed for making Rachmaninoff sound like Mozart. How perverse is that! Interestingly, Philippe Entremont and Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra actually play the Paganini Rhapsody faster, but it sounds far more relaxed in their amazing recording.


The Paganini Rhapsody and Symphony No. 3 share back-to-back opus numbers and were given their premieres two years apart by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. They share stylistic similarities that are a long way from the First and Second Symphonies, and would not work with the kind of interpretation Shui and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra give to the Paganini Rhapsody. You can usually tell where a performance of the Third Symphony is going from the opening orchestral outburst. Shui produces a dark and burnished, almost Stokowskian brass sonority before he launches into a surprisingly slow series of staccato chords. It is immediately apparent that Shui is well aware of the size and scope of the symphony (compared to the Paganini Rhapsody ). Rachmaninoff’s big tune is gratifyingly expansive, but it also becomes obvious that the Singapore Orchestra’s massed strings are pretty good, but hardly in the rarefied class of the Philadelphia Orchestra, especially when they play Rachmaninoff. The Adagio is similarly dark and lush before an electrifying and rhythmically intense scherzo. The third movement is a little unsettled and episodic as Shui exaggerates the tempo contrasts. He delivers the goods in a hair-raising finale in which the orchestra clearly articulates Rachmaninoff’s rhythms with impeccable clarity and formidable impact.


The orchestra is recorded at a low level, but if you raise the volume high enough, there is ample dynamic range, fine instrumental detail, and punchy but not very deep bass with those staccato chords. The piano is nicely balanced with the orchestra in the Paganini Rhapsody. Sudbin is rarely overpowered despite his light touch. These performances are hardly in the class of Entremont and Ormandy in the Paganini Rhapsody, or Ormandy, Ashkenazy (with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), Stokowski, or Zinman with Telarc’s sound in the Third Symphony, but this is still a thoroughly enjoyable CD that stimulates my interest in how Shui would handle the darker and more expansive First and Second Symphonies. Given this recording, the Symphonic Dances could potentially be the best of all.


FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 3 in A minor, Op. 44 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1936/1938; USA 
2.
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op. 43 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Yevgeny Sudbin (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1934; USA 

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