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Customer Review

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another homerun for Mr. P, 1 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances; Isle of the Dead; The Rock (Audio CD)
Reviewing the disc in November last year of the "Symphonic Dances" and "The Isle of the Dead" made by the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski, I gave high praise to the treatment of "The Isle" but politely requested a tad more darkness and drama in the danses. Et voila, Vasily Petrenko scrambles to the rescue providing just what the doctor ordered. These years the RLPO just seems to go from strength to strength, and still in this new recording the players really manage to out-do themselves. A first class musical communicator, Petrenko infuses this provincial orchestra with the searing fire of his intensely Russian spirit - a thing so crusially important to the works of Rachmaninov - conjuring up a sound that rings genuinely true.

From the first notes of the essentially sunny first Symphonic Dance it is obvious that this is a reading dominated by the darker hues of the musical palette, which, quite apart from suiting the music well, lends an added beauty and nobility to all three dances. The Petrenko hallmark of the second dance is a highly volatile rubato that I doubt is hinted at in the score, but which, upon closer inspection, I find quite endearing and somehow more Russian than the classic approach. In the third dance the midnight bell has well and truly tolled, and only those long devoid of life are left to do the dancing. And what a ballet we are given! Here and there the tone is positively menacing and the wavy centre section, in all its splendour, is as icy as a Siberian winter wind. The parallels to Berlioz' witches' sabbath of the Symphonie Fantastique are more than usually clear - and not just through the use of the Dies Irae motive. The music radiates a meticulously controled intensity I have rarely come upon before, providing a tour de force that I doubt will be trumped any time soon.

Petrenko's reading of the "Isle of the Dead" is on a par with Jurowski's, the slow beginning perhaps even a touch more ominous in its silky mesmerism, and though no punches are pulled in the struggle between light and darkness of the crescendo, like Jurowski Petrenko never allows it to deteriorate into the bar room brawl found in other recordings. The athmosphere of the inspirational painting by Arnold Böchlin is there in all its colour - though I understand the version of the picture Rachmaninov saw back in 1909 and took to heart was in fact in black and white. What an imagination!

"The Rock", written in 1894 when the composer was barely 21, is a setting of Chekhov's "Na puti" (On the Road), depicting an encounter between a young girl and an old man, who, before they part never to meet again, relates to the girl the sad story of his life. It is clearly a work of youth, but, like all of Rachmaninov's music, masterly orchestrated and given a warm and sympathetic reading by the Liverpool team.

Technically this is without a doubt the finest Petrenko issue so far. The sound is both supple and full, with kettledrum fff's that'll put cracks in your furniture, yet clear and sharply defined without a hint of distortion or restrictions of volume (unlike his two discs of Shostakovich symphonies). Full marks to the recording engineers.

Great value at a very reasonable price.
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Location: Denmark

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