A recent BBC Radio 3 "CD Review" broadcast selected the well-known Ashkenazy/Concertgebouw account as its recommended recording and did not even mention this Naxos disc. Having such good memories of it, I was prompted to do a direct comparison and was not exactly amazed to discover that Batiz and the RPO were as good I had remembered. Not that that there is anything wrong with the Ashkenazy disc - far from it - but Naxos presents several distinct advantages: first, the quality of sound. This is a demonstration disc with superb engineering by Brian B Culverhouse; the depth and crispness of the sonics makes the perfectly adequate Decca disc sound faded and fuzzy. Rachmaminov uses dense orchestral textures which can easily be submerged - not here. Secondly, for me Batiz's slightly more deliberate tempo in the centre-piece, "The Isle of the Dead", in combination with his subtle anticipation of the first beat in those oddly disconcerting 5/8 bars, create far more tension and menace than Ashkenazy's more restrained beat. Even though Batiz takes two minutes longer, there is more of a sense of inexorable doom in his reading - and the climaxes, too, only partly by virtue of the superior sound, pack more punch. The third factor concerns the performance of the "Symphonic Dances"; here the honours are more even, as although I prefer Batiz in the first two movements, there is no doubt that Ashkenazy's fleetness and delicacy are more appealing in the third movement Allegro vivace. The RPO need fear no comparison with the Concertgebouw; they sound just as virtuosic. Finally, of course, this Naxos disc is available at super-bargain price - very little indeed on Amazon Marketplace.
So; no need to hesitate if you want sterling quality performances of some great music; "The Isle of the Dead" is one of my very favourite tone poems and presents Rachmaninov at his most dark and compelling, while the "Symphonic Dances" offer echoes of both Sibelius' "Valse Triste" and Stravinsky.