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Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 3
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2012
Late Rachmaninov is not early Rachmininov. It should be obvious, but some interpreters seem to try to shoehorn everything he wrote into the style of the young man who wrote the early piano concertos. There are flashes of brilliance in the third Symphony, but they are placed in the context of music which comes from a very different place, emotionally as well as physically, from the early works.

The RLPO has developed a particularly beautiful string sounds over the last few years with Petrenko, and it is present in this recording in all its splendour. The recorded sound is good, as you would expect, the only slight drawback being the high recording levels (although this seems to be the universal practice at the moment). It doesn't affect enjoyment of the recording though.

The reading of the 3rd Symphony is sublime and subtly original. Slower tempos, in places, allow the music to breathe and the detail to come through. Above all, this is a reading that allows the humanity of Rachmaninov's music to shine, without it being cuffed around the ears by over-showy playing in the "big" tunes.

If there were any doubt about the differing perspectives offered in Rachminov's work over time, the inclusion of the early Caprice Bohemien should make things plain. The playing here shows off the skills of the RLPO's musicians in a showy firework display. The Caprice is certainly not the most profound piece Rachmaninov ever wrote, but is fun, exciting, and of course the orchestration is superb.

Finally, there is an orchestrated "Vocalise". The performance is beautifully judged. Showy and exciting though his music often is, there is another side to Rachmininov, evident in both this tender interlude and the 3rd Symphony's regretful, but life-affirming arc.

A very recommendable recording.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This set of performances, well recorded with realistic balances in 2009 and 2010, delivers an interesting alternative view to those put forward by Ashkenazy, Previn and Svetlanov to name but three of the strongest alternative options.

The description above has two carefully chosen words, 'interesting' and 'strongest' because they are important pointers to the character of Petrenko's approach which is in considerable contrast to the other three. This is not to say that it is not so good or not valid, but it certainly takes a different course.

Essentially Petrenko takes a more considered view of the main work and this is presented at a noticeably lower emotional temperature. Detail is invariably made clear and listeners will undoubtedly be made aware of instrumental textures and thematic snippets that may have passed by without registering previously. One could comment fairly safely that Petrenko is attracted to the details of the scenery as the musical journey progresses where others are more interested in pushing forward with the end goal more in mind. Fortunately Petrenko does not allow himself to get distracted by this tendency to enjoy the moment for too long so forward momentum is maintained sufficiently to arrive at the climatic points with conviction.

It is immediately apparent from the opening bars of Ashkenazy that there is more of the red-blooded Russian character driving the interpretation and that can also be said of Svetlanov, although he takes generally steadier tempi than his fellow compatriot. Previn too, pushes on in his typically more extrovert manner and he delivers a weighty and powerful emotional statement with this symphony. All three of those conductors share the view that this music is essentially of a hot emotional temperature. Given that premise, they also deliver, with their universally fine orchestra, performances which include considerable incidental detail en route.

For collectors, Petrenko offers a convincing and alternative view to the more traditional emotionally charged view and there is a clear case for collecting his version too as it is so well done in its own specific way. Petrenko's way with the two additional items, the Vocalise and the early Caprice Bohemien, share the same type of characterisation found in his view of the symphony. Once more, more emotionally charged versions can be experienced with both Ashkenazy and Svetlanov but differently coupled within their respective sets.

In summary this finely played, convincing, meticulous but slightly reserved account can be welcomed. I would suggest that its best position would be as an alternative to established collections rather than as an `only' example of the works presented. It remains a fine, if individual, collection.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I can't say I was unprepared for the splendour and success of this recording, having been bowled over by Petrenko's "Isle of the Dead" and impressed by the Piano Concertos. Even if Trpceski's pianism is a little too restrained in those two recordings, the increasing virtuosity of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is very much in evidence here: lovely string tone, some delightful, "Nordic" colouring in the woodwind, a heft of sound when they play in unison and a real sense of spontaneity. Petrenko achieves true subtlety without losing the necessary sense of improvisatory attack - the scurrying strings in the "Caprice bohémien" really show off their élan and I suspect that their conductor can be satisfied that he has succeeded in moulding them into a world-class ensemble before he is poached by a more prestigious outfit, in the same way that Rattle brought on the CBSO. My instinct is that Petrenko is a greater conductor than Rattle and I look forward with interest to his rising to the stature of Gergiev in similar repertoire.

The "Caprice" and "Vocalise" encapsulate the Russian sensibility that Rachmaninov personified, combining yearning melancholy and the rousing passion which typifies "Aleko". Certainly their demands expose any weakness in a band but the RLPO pass the test in two showpieces which serve as a warm-up to the main dish: Petrenko launches into the flowing Lento with total confidence and assurance, convincing us that this is no episodic ragbag of a piece but a taut, tight masterpiece where no note is superfluous. Again and again, I am surprised and delighted by his grip over the rhythm and pacing; there is a naturalness and warmth about proceedings, never a hint of bombast. There is a no hint of "soupiness"; every detail emerges tellingly. I honestly don't think the word "provincial" could possibly cross the mind of anyone listening blind; he or she would be head-scratching, wondering which major orchestra was playing.

The Adagio is lithe and lean, faintly disturbing in its restlessness and a far cry from the "prettification" approach which sentimentalises it. Brass blare balefully, flutes flicker nervously, oboes moan plaintively - this is wonderful playing.

The finale is triumphant; a kind of Elgarian bravura intertwines with a seething soulfulness. This is a great disc, the best new recording I've heard for a good while and an essential purchase for lovers of Russian music - flawlessly played by one up-and-coming Scouser orchestra to watch!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2012
An excellent recording. The RLPO at its best. A very enjoyable listen. VP brings out the best. Well worth the money.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2012
I have just received this audio CD and i must say it is absolutely fabulous. So much so that i have already removed my Ashkenazy version from my library and if No 2 is as good then that one will go as well. I found the performance exciting to listen to and the recording quality is excellent. I can thoroughly recommend this recording.
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