Thursday, January 18, 2007

CD REVIEW: Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2, Cincinnati Symphony

Jarvi, CSO serve up lush Rachmaninoff 2nd
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, January 18, 2006

Paavo Järvi: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2. Dances from "Aleko." Scherzo. Telarc A+

Go on. Indulge yourself.

Paavo Järvi's 11th CD with the CSO is like a hot fudge sundae with a ginger cookie and a dash of vodka.

Paired with Rachmaninoff's mega-hit Second Symphony is his 1888 Scherzo (his first work for orchestra, written at age 15), and two dances from "Aleko," an 1893 opera about gypsy life from his student days at the Moscow Conservatory.

R(achmaninoff) is for romance and it flows abundantly through his Second Symphony, even in its dark, brooding moments. The opening Largo sets a restless tone with its low-lying strings and stark, answering chords in the winds. Despite the often heavy scoring, shifting textures and turbulent dynamics, Järvi gives it remarkable clarity, carrying the listener through its peaks and valleys with a sure hand and careful attention to detail. The scherzo sparkles by contrast, yielding its shapely melody with grace and allure.

The famous Adagio carries lush to a new level, with tender nuances and affecting woodwind solos. The big theme (known to the pop world as Eric Carmen's "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again") builds gradually to a soaring climax, followed by a warm, lingering afterglow. The finale sets the seal on the work with its breathless excitement, recap of themes from earlier movements and bright, thumping conclusion.

Rachmaninoff's teenage Scherzo is a five-minute charmer, a "Midsummer Night's Dream" echo (Mendelssohn), with skittering flute and spiccato strings that should be on everyone's encore list.

Ditto for the "Aleko" Dances. The Women's Dance is dark and exotic, with little twirls of tambourine. The Men's Dance is brassy and boozy with a resemblance to Gliere's "Russian Sailor's Dance" (from his 1927 ballet "The Red Poppy") that suggests the latter lifted it from Rachmaninoff.

Available now at CSO Music Hall concerts and in retail stores Tuesday. CD and SACD formats.

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