Svetlanov made this series of re-recordings covering key areas of his repertoire towards the end of his musical career. The recordings are all far superior to his earlier versions and the earlier raw orchestral textures has been tamed, but not eliminated. This preserves the typical, and possibly essential, rawness of wind and brass tone which is so foreign to Western European ears. This is all to the good.
However, his claim that only Russians can play Russian music, though frequently true in general terms, is not always the case. In this performance we get plenty of emotion, often raw and certainly exciting, and this is undoubtedly part of the Russian experience. Nowadays we are used to hearing the Mariinsky and Bolshoi orchestras on fine DVD and Blu-ray recordings of ballets and operas under conductors such as Gergiev and his colleagues so it is possible to sense that there is more flexibility here than is frequently utilised elsewhere while still being Russian.
Perhaps the nationality of the conductor or soloist is just as important a consideration. Take Ashkenazy for example. His performance of this symphony with the Concertgebouw is clearly very Russian in its unbuttoned ebb and flow and particularly in its forward pacing and tight rhythms. It is a noticeably faster performance overall shaving off a remarkable 8 minutes approximately. His is not the only faster performance either. Regardless of this considerable difference in timing, there is no sense of a lack of momentum in Svetlanov's interpretation. One is more aware of the weight and bite thus achieved.
The Rock symphonic poem is a really worthwhile fill-up. The main theme, interestingly, bears a remarkable similarity of the opening flute figure to that of Bax in his Garden of Fand. (Also in the same key and at the same pitch). As Bax wrote his piece in 1916 and Rachmaninov wrote his in 1893, it may well be that Bax heard it and thought 'That's a good idea!' Whatever - Rachmaninov's early work is certainly worth listening to.
This is a good and worthwhile disc and one that totally fits in with the rest of Svetlanov's survey of Rachmaninov. It may not be the best choice as an 'only' version though. A more central choice would be that included in the excellent Ashkenazy complete set. However, that is what collecting is all about - a broadening of the interpretive awareness brought about by fine alternative interpretations!