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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2009
Balancing the pros and cons of this issue is difficult. On the positive side the Philadelphia Orchestra play like angels and Ormandy's justly famous nurturing of the "Philadelphia Sound" he inherited from Stokowski - luscious strings and sharp attack - comes over very well. Then there is the fact that Rachmaninov played by this particular orchestra is MORE "authentic" than that played by Jansons and the St Petersburg Philharmonic: Rachmaninov was deeply involved with the Philadelphia Orchestra during his long exile in America and the later works, especially here the Third Symphony, were premiered by this band. The 40 year old recordings have come up well, though they lack the last ounce of clarity (Jansons and Ashkenazy are clearer).

The disadvantages start with the fact that the Second Symphony is heavily cut, in the manner of many performances before Previn's 1973 disc. This is a shame because it is an incandescent reading and I suppose you could say that it is "authentic" in its time, when most conductors would adopt the cuts authorised by Rachmaninov. This symphony is placed first on the first disc, leaving Symphony 1 split between the two discs: another shame because this edition is good and the playing is top rate. Symphony 3 is goreously played but could, I feel, do with a bit more energy, particularly in the first movement. Previn, Ashkenazy, Jansons and Litton are all "tighter" conceptions and I have a particular admiration for Jansons Symphonies Nos. 1 - 3/Orchestral Works (Jansons) and for Ashkenazy here Rachmaninov: Symphonies Nos.1 - 3.

Buy this set for the historical interest and as a pendant to one of the other sets mentioned above. It is well worth it, when looked at in that way. But the other more modern performances have superceded it.
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on 9 February 2009
These are valuable historical documents. Ormandy was an excellent Rachmaninov interpreter and had the advantage of a virtuoso musical instrument in the shape of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The recordings have never sounded better. I would not suggest that anyone should ONLY have these performances but they make a very effective alternative to the more modern mainstream recommendations by Jansons, Previn, Svetlanov, Pletnev etc.
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on 26 January 2010
These are stunning performances even though the Second Symphony is the shorter edition approved by Rachmaninov, and the usual version played in his lifetime. Perhaps it would be advisable to listen to them in the same way we are now accustomed to the various Bruckner editions, because to avoid these definitive readings would be to miss out on unique interpretations, the ones that carry with them all the composer's sense of dislocation in exile, as well as embodying the rich and luscious sounds, especially from the strings, that emanate from the orchestra Rachmaninov had the most intimate relationship with. Use these as a supplement to the magnificent, very Russian, Jansons Leningrad set and you will have the gamut of the music in all its manifestations.
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on 23 February 2016
A top flight American orchestra with a historical affinity with the composer on top form under its famous conductor of yesteryear.
I would place this set of recordings beside and even ahead of many more recent versions. Special in content and cost!
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on 7 June 2014
I bought this set having read the reviews on here, having been put off at first by the cuts. You do notice them the 2nd however the performance is sensational. As in his fantastic Mahler 10, Ormandy is not afraid of tempo which of course makes the writs that much more effective, avoids sentimental wallowing, and his use of counterpoint particularly in the first and slow movements is masterly. The playing is quite glorious in all departments and no one layers these wonderful sweeping string cadences quite like Ormandy here. His last movement in the second (complete) is particularly exciting and builds the kind of climax which puts modern conductors to shame. It reminded me of an unforgettable performance conducted by Svetlanov at the RFH, and trust me that is saying something!
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on 18 December 2010
I've known the 1st symphony performance for many years and have always admired it. I've never heard the first movement bettered. Although it's in it's edited form the 2nd symphony is very convincing. The 3rd is a piece full of excitement and colour, great performance.
The playing of the Philadelphia is wonderful, the string playing is the 'cream of the milk'. You get a real sense of being back in Tsarist Russia at the turn of the 2oth century.
This was Rachmaninov's orchestra after all.
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on 25 October 2015
Pleased With same. del on time.
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