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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performance of the Second Symphony..., 16 Sep 2010
By 
Camil Moujaber (Owosso, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bychkov Conducts Rachmaninoff [DVD] [2007] [NTSC] (DVD)
Got this DVD for the Rachmaninov Symphony no.2... Amazing performance by the WDR Symphony Orchestra, which was formed in 1947 by the NWDR Radio station in Cologne. Today this orchestra has gained an international reputation under chief conductors that have included Dohnanyi, Macal, Bertini and Vonk, as well as guest conductors like Abbado, Karajan, Maazel, Mehta, Solti and Previn. Since 1998, the orchestra's chief conductor has been Semyon Bychkov, conducting the performances on this DVD.

This DVD contains the following:
* The Bells, Opus 35 - Documentary and performance
* Symphonic Dances, Opus 45 - Documentary and performance
* Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27 - Performance only

The documentaries include rehearsals, interviews with orchestra members (in German, with subtitles) and commentary in English by the conductor on the life and works or Sergei Rachmaninov.

I have watched "Symphony No. 2" and some of "The Bells" rehearsals so far on this DVD, and as I mentioned before, the Sym. 2 performance by the WDR.S.O. is very pleasing, accurately displaying the grandiose beauty and genuine melancholy of this beautiful symphony. Quoting from the booklet: "It was fantastic to see the way the orchestra brought commitment and passion to this extremely difficult music, the spirit of which is so difficult to fathom. In the concerts, the orchestra played as if it was a matter of life or death". I am sure the rest of the performances on this DVD will be as pleasing.

Great picture, great sound, great orchestra and conductor, great performances... so? 5 stars for this highly recommended DVD!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely idiomatic Rachmaninov, 27 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bychkov Conducts Rachmaninoff [DVD] [2007] [NTSC] (DVD)
Firstly it is important to correct the video presentation as listed by Amazon. It is not in 4.3 but is presented in very clear 16.9 format throughout.

Musically this is an excellent pair of discs and they clearly point up what is missing in the recent Rattle disc with the BPO where I remarked in my review that they deliver an excellent mid European interpretation. What was missing there was the sheer Russian rhythmic drive and melodic flow. In my opinion, there needed to be far more of the raw emotional content in addition to all the expected perfection of the Berliners. Those familiar with the Ashkenazy set of symphonies on CD will know what I mean. Svetlanov also delivers true Russian passion on his CD set too and that is what we get here too with no lack of truly idiomatic Russian passion. The orchestra is fully up to the technical demands of the music and the conductor who, being Russian, perhaps has a natural empathy with the emotional sound world of Rachmaninov.

The complete set consists of three performances all of which have been recorded in the Cologne concert hall but without audience. This is a pity as all three performances would surely have got the audience up on its feet! Their loss however and the lack of audience does not in any way lessen the impact of the performances. The symphony is performed in full concert wear within a darkened hall.

The Bells and the Symphonic Dances are performed during daylight hours and in 'civilian' clothes - a deliberate informality that does nothing to prevent impassioned and skilful playing. The use of Russian soloists with Russian vocal timbres is an important additional advantage as are the supplied subtitles. There are also two extensive illustrated documentaries making use of extracts from the performances of The Bells for one and The Symphonic Dances for the other to put the music and Rachmaninov in shared context.

In my view, what we get here is the real thing recorded in high definition giving excellent surround sound in DD 5.1 as well as stereo coupled with good camera work. Rather a 'must buy' in fact! Highly recommended for compelling and idiomatic performances presented in good modern recordings.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
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