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Rachmaninov: The Bells; Symphonic Dances

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Rachmaninov: The Bells; Symphonic Dances
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  • Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-4
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  • Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes, Sonata No.2
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Product details

  • Performer: Rundfunkchor Berlin, Luba Orgonasova, Dimytro Popov, Mikhail Petrenko
  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Composer: Sergei Rachmaninov
  • Audio CD (26 Aug. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Music
  • ASIN: B00D7D3ONC
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,342 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Digital Booklet: Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances; The Bells
Digital Booklet: Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances; The Bells
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Product Description

WEA 9845192; WEA ITALIANA - Italia; Classica Orchestrale

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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