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  • Rachmaninov: Symphony No.1; The Isle of Dead
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Rachmaninov: Symphony No.1; The Isle of Dead CD

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Russian National Orchestra
  • Conductor: Mikhail Pletnev
  • Audio CD (7 Aug. 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00004TL2O
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,987 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

The Isle of the Dead represents Rachmaninov at his most uncompromising. The Böcklin painting which inspired this harrowing symphonic poem is reproduced on the cover of this disc (although in colour: Rachmaninov was actually inspired by a black and white reproduction). Pletnev begins his account with the quietest of pianissimos. DG's excellent, crystal clear recording sustains this well. The brass throughout is threatening and doom-laden. Even in the quieter moments, Pletnev keeps the intensity fully alive, so that the rhythmic impetus inexorably moves towards the climactic, punched chords (here precisely together for maximum effect). Pletnev's full grasp of Rachmaninov's idiom and musical processes is confirmed in his account of the First Symphony. The fugal passages are presented unapologetically, almost as if Pletnev believes Rachmaninov to be the greatest contrapuntalist since Bach. The virtuosity of the Russian National Orchestra enables the second movement to be as mercurial as it is swift. The most important facet of both of the performances on this disc is that, in refusing to over-sentimentalise, Pletnev makes the music tremendously powerful. The Larghetto flows gorgeously, all the more so for not being milked for all it is worth. Pletnev becomes a clear choice for a modern recording of these pieces. --Colin Clarke

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By George Fraser on 13 Dec. 2002
Format: Audio CD
The recording of "Isle of the Dead" is delicious. I can't imagine it being better. The First Symphony is also a good, solid performance on the whole, but there are moments when Pletnev seems to forget that it's by Rachmaninov and reverts to conducting Tchaikovsky. This is especially noticeable in the opening of the fourth movement where the triumphant brass is incongruously straightforward. Desperate optimism instead of monochrome grandeur would have improved the coherence with the rest of the piece. Having said that, I am very glad that I added this disk to my collection. I will almost certainly give Pletnev's recordings of symphonies 2 and 3 a go- they have also, to my knowledge, had more consistent reviews.
The composition itself (the first symphony) is a little rough around the edges, but if, like me, you value expression more than technical perfection, then this kicks many other romantic composers into a corner. It is nothing short of a tragedy that the debut of this piece was such a disaster, and I pine for the lost symphonies that Rachmaninov might otherwise have written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Lazzerini on 26 Feb. 2012
Format: Audio CD
The atmosphere evoked of by Arnold Böcklin's painting Isle of the Dead is captured perfectly in Rachmaninov's symphonic poem. The emotional intensity of Pletnev's performance with the RNO has in my opinion never been (and probably never will be) surpassed. The way the strings sigh as the shrouded figure is ferried to his final resting place, the yearning for past life in the agonising climaxes, the final acceptance of death in the closing bars, cut straight through to the heart of the listener.

I have listened to other highly rated interpretations (for example Ashkenazy with the RCO), but for me, none come close to this one. Also the sound and recording quality are excellent, one of the best from DG.

As for the the Symphony no.1, I haven't much to say because it is not one of my favourite pieces. No doubt a fine performance for those who like the work.

Finally, I am not alone in my praise. The CD was awarded a rosette by the Penguin Classical CD guide. This CD is worth its price for Isle of the Dead alone. The added bonus is that the cover illustration is of the painting that inspired the music, in my view essential for the complete experience.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
... as an admirer of Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra, having several of their recordings, including the most generally recommendable version of the Tchaikovsky 6th symphony (the first recording on Virgin) I have come across...and being fortunate to live in Edinburgh and catch their festival performances over the years ...I expected performances of "polished passion" and essentially this is what I felt listening to the disc. Excellently recorded, superbly delivered..and yet something is missing that stops me making this my first I might have expected from the critical acclaim this disc has received. I purchased the disc recently after being impressed by their account of Rachmaninov second symphony. Both performances are imaginative and do not disappoint but for me they lack the vitality that I find more readily in Previn, Ashkenazy and Jansons (whose trio cd bargain box is a bargain of bargains containing performances that to my ears are more "passionate" and less "controlled"). For me this is the heart of the issue: I am "moved" by the Jansons emi performances whilst "admiring" the precision of the Pletnev discs. I bought this disc last year within days of attending concerts of both conductors and from front stall seats I found their conducting relationships with their orchestras led to a similar response over a pair of concerts each.

So, horses for courses, depending how you like to listen to your Rachmaninov. On this disc 'The Isle of the Dead' is powerfully brooding with an immediate dramatic impact.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eagle on 15 Feb. 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Super quality, super sound. A real help with studies and a great pleasurable listen. DG recordings never let you down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Rach Best 31 Jan. 2008
By E. Ulkumen - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This record appears to be a landmark in Rachmaninoff's music. It is quite interesting that many things can change through time: Symphony No.1 had been a catastrophic effect in Rachmaninoff's life, however, we now recognize that it is the one that resembles the master the most. I strongly recommend this valuable recording to anyone who admires Rachmaninoff's art. Pletnev and his profound Russian National Orchestra are just off-limits. The price is well-worth the quality and I believe is necessary for all classical music lovers' library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
excellent! 7 Jan. 2014
By bob bob - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I had not heard Isle of the Dead before, when I heard it on my internet station I ordered it and have been pleasantly surprised. It is not dark and sad like the title would imply. The first symphony is more popular and I had heard it before. The album is a welcome addition to my classical library.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
**** 1/2 A beautiful, idiomatic reading that falls just short on energy and passion 21 Mar. 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
As PLetnev's Rachmaninov cycle emerged in the Nineties, Western listeners were amazed that decades of coarse orchestral playing under the Soviets (with some notable exceptions, of course) suddenly gave way to a smooth, viruosic Russian National Orch. that could compete on a very high level internationally. Just as remarkably, Melodiya's good-enough stereo sound was replaced by the sleek, up-to-date sonics heard on this Rachmaninov Sym. 1 -- it is visceral and powerful. Good-sounding versions from Decca (Ashkenazy) and EMI (Jansons) were easily eclipsed. No wonder that this recording earned a Pelican Guide rosette.

Until a considerably better conductor enters the field -- meaning Gergiev, Vladimir Jurowski, or Vasily Petrenko -- the skillful leadership of Pletnev will do very well. To compensate for the sprawl of Rachmaninov's first symmphonic score, his solution is elegance and refined, supple phrasing. Those qualities don't quite solve the puzzle of tis score, which needs fiery commitment, I think, and a willingness to take risks. You can hear the difference if you take the first item on the program, The Isle of the Dead, and set Pletnev's way beside Petrenko or Jurowsky. He is strong, balanced, and restrained, but they tell a more dramatic story, leading grimly and inexorably to a huge emotional climax. PLetnev is altogether cooler and more controlled.

The same holds in the symphony, where the initial grinding chords in the cellos and basses are smoothed out so that they are not so crude or wrenching. The Scherzo is marked "animato," which Pletnev turns into light-footed fairy-tale gossamer. He resists the darker side of the music, and so there is little menacing tension when the grim motto that began the work returns. Even so, the dreamy Larghetto reminds us of how unusually beautiful and refined tis whole reading is. The emergence of Russian conductors as advocates for a forgotten symphony has been a revelation. The brazen fanfares that begin the finale could have sent an army into battle under Svetlanov; here we are at a royal pageant decorated with mock combat. I miss the galloping excitement of Jansons on EMI, still my favorite overall reading; Ashkenazy is also particularly strong.

But as a document of Russian orchestra leaping into the international spotlight with totally idiomatic readings of their music, this is an outstanding release.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Buy it for "the Dead..." 18 Nov. 2012
By DaddyD - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this CD for Isle of the Dead...and loved it. The symphony is good, but think of it as an extra bonus.
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