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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Playing and Sound Quality.
This is repertoire that was known to me, but short of great recordings and so it's wonderful to have a disc that fills that void, from one of the best orchestra/conductor combinations in the world.

The recording quality is wonderful and there are plenty of earth-shattering climaxes where you might reach for the volume control, as the timpani and gongs blast the...
Published 14 months ago by Bruce

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ripe Colours
There can be no doubt that during Simon Rattle's tenure with the Berliner Philharmoniker he has extended both his and the orchestra's repertoire, as with this this new recording on Warner Classics (taking up EMI's mantle). It features Rachmaninoff's The Bells, captured in its first ever performance by the BPO, and the composer's late Symphonic Dances. There are fierier...
Published 15 months ago by Entartete Musik


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Playing and Sound Quality., 8 Oct 2013
By 
Bruce "from Brighton" (UK - England) - See all my reviews
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This is repertoire that was known to me, but short of great recordings and so it's wonderful to have a disc that fills that void, from one of the best orchestra/conductor combinations in the world.

The recording quality is wonderful and there are plenty of earth-shattering climaxes where you might reach for the volume control, as the timpani and gongs blast the ears. Dynamic range is wide on CD, from the opening pianissimo to huge tuttis and this is no lightweight, as we would expect from a Russian composer.

Conductor, Berlin Phil, choirs and soloists all impress with their virtuosity throughout and I am glad to have heard this material. However, I can't help thinking that the Bells has a slightly dour ending and that the Symphonic Dances are too weighty for a ballet score. There are great moments and setpieces where you hear what this is all about, but I'm not sure either piece works as a whole or is completely satisfying?

I can't imagine anybody making a more eloquent case than these forces, however and it feels wrong to complain about such wonderful music-making. But for me, this repertoire's not quite up there with the piano works, but certainly worth a listen.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rattle fills a void in the Rachmaninov catalog with impressively virtuosic readings, 27 Aug 2013
By 
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
Despite being some of Rachmaninoff greatest works, there are few virtuoso recordings of The Bells and Symphonic Dances. The Berlin Philharmonic has never had a principal conductor known for Rachmaninov and to my knowledge this is their first recording of The Bells. Rattle has barely touched Rachmaninov, so has he been able to acclimate to the Russian temperament?

Rachmaninov considered The Bells his favorite composition, but it hasn't been recorded by today's leading Russian maestros, particularly Gergiev, Petrenko, and Jurowski. On ICA Classics there is a memorable recording from Svetlanov and the BBC Symphony that is full of dark, Russian soul. Jose Serebrier and Gianandrea Noseda have contributed readings that are likewise idiomatic and very Russian. Naturally, Rattle's account doesn't have the same flavor, given that he's a British conductor working with a German orchestra and choir. Thankfully the soloists, Luba Orgonasova, Dimytro Popov, and Mikhail Petrenko are Russian and very fine. From the opening bars of "The Silver Sleigh Bells", we enter a world that is more exuberant and carefree--there's no trace of darkness. Critics may complain that Rattle isn't Russian enough, but as we progress, we find music-making that is full of orchestral playing better by far than anything else on disc, bringing out a new world of detail. Surprisingly, Rattle ends up sounding more energetic than most of his rivals on disc. His tempos lean on the fast side and he finds his success in reading into the score's modernity and wide range of color. The alarm bells of the 3rd movement, for instance, build with startling vividness. In my estimation, the Rundfunkchor Berlin makes up for not being Russian with its highly accomplished sound that transmits the music with detailed accuracy. The only complaint listeners may have is that the account isn't Russian enough. While it's true that this reading doesn't displace rival Russian readings, I think it fills a unique place. It would be hard to deny the fervor emanated from all involved, recorded from the same concerts as the Le Sacre released in April.

There's not as great a shortage of readings of the Symphonic Dances, but few could truly be described as virtuosic. Ashkenazy's reading with the Concertgebouw was jaunty and lighthearted without aiming for orchestral depth. On the other hand, Gergiev's recent LSO Live recording was grave and serious, not one to highlight the solos or orchestration. The up-and-coming Petrenko almost seemed our best option, with fiery conducting that was dramatic without being heavy-footed, but he didn't have a great orchestra in the Royal Liverpool Phil. Rattle took advantage of his opportunity and we now have a new great reading that utilizes both the individuality and crushing impact of the Berliners. But for all his highlighting of new details, Rattle doesn't come across as fussy, his afflicting flaw. Anyone who finds deficits in Rattle's conducting has found flaws I'm incapable of hearing. The sonority of the Berliners, voiced impeccably, is staggering in full cry, making the most of the dramatic potential. Equally captivating, of course, are the many solos sprinkled throughout the work. I can assure you they are on a level far above anything else on disc.

Since he came to these works with little background in Rachmaninov, I feared Rattle might seem out of touch in these works. But instead we have readings that can be compared with the best, with incomparable playing--bravo.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ripe Colours, 4 Sep 2013
There can be no doubt that during Simon Rattle's tenure with the Berliner Philharmoniker he has extended both his and the orchestra's repertoire, as with this this new recording on Warner Classics (taking up EMI's mantle). It features Rachmaninoff's The Bells, captured in its first ever performance by the BPO, and the composer's late Symphonic Dances. There are fierier accounts of both works on record and, like this year's BPO account of The Rite of Spring and last year's Carmen, you often wish Rattle could get out of his own way when performing scores of a vivid and theatrical nature, though it is nonetheless rewarding to hear Rachmaninoff played by this great orchestra.

East meets West in The Bells, as the BPO and the superb Rundfunkchor Berlin are joined by the Slovakian soprano Luba Orgonásova and native Russians Dmytro Popov (tenor) and Mikhail Petrenko (bass). The opening movement, 'The Silver Sleigh Bells', is performed with snow-like delicacy, before bursting forth in ripe full-voiced colour. No less plush is the string playing in 'The Mellow Wedding Bells' that follows, which Rattle shapes with swooning sensuality.

Things should boil over in the final two movements, though Rattle maintains a rather tight grip on 'The Loud Alarum Bells', where precision appears more important to him that unbridled passion and he fails to deliver the requisite climactic punch. But the lugubrious finale, 'The Mournful Iron Bells', again features some ravishing playing, not least from the solo cor anglais, against which Mikhail Petrenko sounds his doleful, affecting threnody.

As with Gergiev's recent recording of the Symphonic Dances with the LSO, Rattle is keen to emphasise the adjective rather than the noun in the title, with the dances lacking a little terpsichorean schwung - this is a notably slower performance than Ashkenazy's benchmark recording with the Concertgebouw. Unlike Gergiev, however, and indeed Rattle's interpretation of The Bells, Rattle does let rip at the climaxes, unleashing a particularly dazzling display at the end of the opening movement.

The grinding brass fanfares at the opening of the ensuing waltz have sufficient snarl, though the strings are rather placid in response. Yet even if it's all a little back-footed, the reprise of the dance has a suitably Ravelian lilt. But it is only in the final movement that the attendant danger of La Valse, for instance, really kicks in and the conductor and his orchestra show both themselves and these glittering showstoppers to the best of their advantage. Rattle may be keen to withhold that excitement until the end, but Rachmaninoff demands a more spendthrift approach to colour.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a good coupling which I really bought for The Bells which, 23 Sep 2014
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This is a good coupling which I really bought for
The Bells which ,in effect ,is a choral symphony.
The performance is what you would expect
from one of the finest orchestras.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bells: fantastic! Symphonic Dances: polished, 30 Jan 2014
By 
Charles Voogd (Underwaterland) - See all my reviews
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Well here it is: a new recording of Rachmaninov’s symphony The Bells which outdoes Ashkenazy’s performance from the 1980s with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. It has been an long wait but eventually the Berliners have beaten the Amsterdammers. The soloists are top of the bill, soprano Organosova hits all the (high) notes right, as where Troitskaya in Ashkenazy’s version has problems with the last lines in her verses. It can’t be otherwise but tenor Popov is helped by the engineers to be able to be heard by the listener in the overwhelmingly powerful first movement. The choir is so present, so loud, so committed, some people may find them on the too loud side. Not me. The manuscript is clear, it says ffffffffffff for the choir ate the end of movement one. Tempo is okay and the ghostly atmosphere in the scherzo is perfect. Happily Rattle has learned this orchestra to love Rachmaninov and so you’ll able to hear – at last – something different than all the German and Austrian masters they like so much to play in Berlin. The performance of the symphonic dances is good but not great. Here we encounter the Rachmaninov pitfall again: it’s too glitzy, schmaltzy and polished. Hollywoodish. But all other Western performances are just so…. except the one by Ashkenazy and the Concertgebouw! For a real raw and biting set of dances buy the very cheap (prize I mean) recording by Pavel Kogan and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra; they rattle you of your feet.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant recording!, 2 Nov 2013
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Great playing from these wonderful players and Rattle conducts as well as ever. This is a recording that will be listened to many times over.
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