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Rachmaninov: Symphony no 3, Symphonic Dances / Pletnev, Russian NO

Release Date: 04/01/1998 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 457598   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

I am in two minds about this disc. The same team's recording of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony (DG, 6/94) was never less than ardently expressive. Here it is as if a preoccupation with textural clarity has got in the way. In terms of pure sound, the new performance of the Third may be considered superior to its predecessor. And yet the music seems reluctant to take wing. There is more than analytical coolness about the opening chant-like motto theme, with clarinets, horn and solo cello exquisitely matched, but the first orchestral intervention is curiously conceived. It has weight certainly but neither maximum power nor maximum crispness. Perhaps the conductor's generally sluggish tempos are designed to evoke a mood of autumnal weariness. In Read more the end, however, the effect is either dangerously mannered or simply bland - now burdened with strangely intrusive nuancing, now reminiscent of Pierre Boulez at his most thanklessly expository. Either way, the tension is set too low. It would be unjust not to praise the delicacy and accuracy of the Russian National Orchestra in, for example, the scherzo component of the second movement. That said, the sceptics should steer clear. While this is much less eccentric than Mikhail Pletnev's own recent account of Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata (DG, 6/98), am not sure the piece hangs together in slow motion for all the subtleties unearthed. As is often the case with cc/it Russian accounts, there is no exposition repeat in the first movement.

Pletnev doesn't exactly sprint through the Symphonic Dances either, but here the splendour of the orchestral invention is such that a conductor can revel in the detail without seeming to short-change the listener. As in the Symphony, the rival Mariss Jansons version is more conventionally intense and dramatic, Pletnev downplaying any perceived tendency to late romantic excess. Nothing is inflated or overstated. the conductor and/or his sound engineers emphasizing the radicalism of the score by focusing on previously overlooked contributions from piano or low wind. The first dance is unusually deliberate, taking its cue from the curious Non allegro marking. Thankfully. Pletnev reveals his command of the longer line in the nostalgic central section: memories of the queasy. Iron Curtain timbre of the St Petersburg Philharmonic's alto saxophone are banished by the luminous balm of the Russian National player. Also well judged is the coda's magical. major-key reminiscence of the (long-suppressed) First Symphony. While the central panel of Pletnev's triptych could be yet more insinuating, the extreme clarity of the oom-pah-pah piano part at least offers a novel perspective on the material. The finale is unexpectedly dynamic; its central Lento a.ssai section gives us a properly valedictory glimpse of the Old World (Jansons finds a more affirmative Tchaikovskian catharsis), and the problematical coda convinces too. The final gong stroke is sensibly allowed to ring out even if its actual sonority is a little unexpected.

Barely represented on disc a generation ago, Rachmaninov's final orchestral works are firm favourites these days, often yoked together as here. Many readers will feel more comfortable with Jansons's less refined, more obviously energized music-making, but this is a fascinating alternative - gentle, pristine. sometimes downright odd, always provocative.

-- Gramophone [7/1998]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 in A minor, Op. 44 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1936/1938; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Mikhail Pletnev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 

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