A previous reviewer on Amazon.com is right when he comments on the fact that this superbly played, elegantly paced performance is a little short on passion; on returning to my old bargain double CD set on Sony with Ormandy and the Philadelphia, I re-encountered the drive and flexibility I miss in this more measured account by Vernon Handley and the excellent Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. As a bargain, it can hardly be faulted - many of these Tring issues are worth tracking down, in particular the extraordinary Mahler Fifth conducted by Frank Shipway - but I need more daring, more swooning schmalz and old-fashioned rubato than Handley permits, even while I am admiring his control and sincerity. Of course the digital sound is better in this 1994 recording but the hiss on the 1959 Sony recording is negligible; the sound is really very acceptable for its age. Ormandy is altogether freer and more energised than Handley and sanctions some outrageous, swirling glissandi, so some might prefer the latter's forensic restraint. Both have virtuosic orchestras to do their bidding and both have something to say about Rachmaninov, so you pays your money and you takes your choice. (It's only fair to point out, however, that Ormandy imposes small cuts sanctioned by the composer, whereas Handley plays the full score.)
on 23 March 2014
Having heard excellent recordings of Rachmaninov's most popular symphony like Previn's LSO or Ashkenazy's Concertgebouw Orchestra, I wondered how Handley's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra would compare. I'm glad to say it is certainly up there with them. What this recording has that the LSO and CO don't is very high quality digital sound. (recorded in 1994 on the Tring label) It enhances the already fabulous RPO sound to great effect.The strings in particular are extremely sensuous in the typical romantic passages that Rachmaninov is famous for. To hear this symphony at its best, you need to get a recording by a top Orchestra and this one qualifies.