4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Russian passion with recording to match,
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This review is from: Rachmaninov : Danses Symphoniques - Prince Rostislav - Vocalise (Audio CD)
Svetlanov felt that only Russians were really able to play Russian music. To illustrate this he spent the last years of his performing life re-recording Russian music with a specially chosen Russian orchestra and with much improved modern recording quality. His Rachmaninov series is of considerable note and was made in the mid 1990's.
The orchestral sound is an essential ingredient in all of this. The brass have a particular cutting edge and willingness to approach a degree of rawness that would be impossible for the BPO for example. The woodwind have an earthy quality that puts us in touch with the folk-inspired themes of so much Russian music. Similar characteristics are to be detected within the strings. This is a long way from the extreme rawness that was to be heard on earlier generations of Russian recordings and the orchestral balances are now correctly proportioned and realistic.
As far as interpretations go, Svetlanov sees Rachmaninov as a very major 20th century composer with a serious voice and serious things to say. As a result the speeds are not as driven as might be expected and can actually be relatively steady. This is with comparison with Ashkenazy for example who produced some wonderful Rachmaninov with the Concertgebouw orchestra for Decca. Svetlanov achieves his dramatic climaxes more often through weight of tone and rhythmical drive rather than through speed. The Symphonic Dances take on a broader scale in this performance and this matches Svetlanov's view that they are, in effect, a fourth symphony. The symphonic poem 'Prince Rostislav' is an early work from 1891 although it had to wait until 1945 for its first performance. This is a sombre work of considerable brooding power. Remarkably powerful and expertly written by a young composer. The concluding Vocalise makes an attractive finale to the disc.
This disc contains three very fine performances and recordings which go a long way to vindicate Svetlanov's view of the specialness of Russians playing Russian music. I would suggest that this makes compulsive listening that will, at the very least, bring an impressive new slant to music already known to collectors. For those interested in a strong Russian view of this repertoire in a good recording I would suggest that this merits serious consideration. As such it can be compared favourably with the best currently available.