Rachmaninov: The Bells CD
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In this recording of Rachmaninov's The Bells, the presence of Russian conductor Alexander Anissimov results in a thoroughly idiomatic (and vibrantly dramatic) performance which always knows where it's going, with speeds finely judged, balance immaculate and bags of shape. The male soloists hail from Belarus which also helps, but Helen Field demonstrates that you don't have to be east European to make an impression. A more hard-edged timbre from the chorus would have been welcome but the singing is still marvellously committed and disciplined. There's a nice sense of space around the excellent sound. Sure, the simultaneously released Bells, a stunning all-Russian affair conducted by Mikhail Pletnev on DG, outscores and outguns the Naxos performance on many counts but by no means puts it in the shade. And if you're wavering, the attraction of the fine Anissimov performance of The Rock--a great piece, ravishingly orchestrated--may tip the balance. --Andrew Green