Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rachmaninov Symphony no 2

July 8, 2008
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2 in E minor Op. 27; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34 - Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Edo de Waart - PentaTone Multichannel (4.0) RQR SACD PTC 5186 153, 70:35 *** [Distr. by Naxos]:This is a popular symphony from the great Russian composer who lived until 1943. Today we may forget that during his career his standing as a composer surprisingly fluctuated frequently and he made his mark more as a pianist and conductor. His richly colorful sound, with strong lyricism and great breadth, is on full view in this four-movement symphony. Although Rachmaninoff mistrusted the more modern composers of his time as creating music from the head and not the heart - as he did - it is surprisingly to read that his first symphony had been attacked for its “modernist” tendencies. No danger of that with the Second, written a full nine years after the first. In the meantime Rachmaninoff had overcome a writer’s block/depression problem thru hypnosis administered by a psychiatrist.These four-channel recordings were made in Holland in 1976 for possible release quadraphonically, but by that time the quad format has died due to its many competing variations, one of which worked well. The transfer to SACD is excellent, with the lack of center and subwoofer channels not really missed at all. However, there are more exciting and dramatic performances of this very emotional work; I’m partial to Paavo Jarvi’s on a Telarc SACD. It also has a wider spectrum frequency-wise - the bells in the second movement are almost unheard on the PentaTone whereas they are quite strong on the Telarc. The filler of the Capriccio Espagnol - written to be a colorful, celebratory showpiece - also could use a bit of Spanish fly to perk it up. - John Sunier

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