Symphony No. 3
The Isle of the
PEARL GEMM CD 9414
These recordings represent the complete treasury of recordings made by
Rachmaninov as conductor. As Alan Sanders' lucid notes point out there might
easily have been a composer-conducted recording of the Symphonic Dances but
the Victor company chose otherwise. One of the great might-have-beens
The disc is transcribed from Mr Sanders' own 78s with the symphony set down
in 1939 and the other works in April 1929. The sound suggests minimal
intervention which is fine as it leaves, richly unadorned, the original sound.
This brings with it the constant low level spit and burble of the 78 surfaces.
Still, to have these composer-directed interpretations is pretty miraculous
as also is the rather etiolated colour photo of the composer on the cover.
The Symphony is overshadowed by the more sprawlingly epic Second. The Third
is extremely appealing: being concise, not short of fine expansive themes
and seething with rewarding orchestration. I still lean heavilytowards
Kondrashin's Melodiya disc but there is no doubting the historic significance
of the Pearl. Lest anyone think that Rach 3 is to Rach 2 as Walton 2 is to
Walton 1, be at ease: The symphony is dramatic, emotional and silkily melodic.
The other two pieces were in the studio in 1929 70 years ago and are affectingly
done with Isle of the Dead cutting an oily sea-swathe - lapping
ruminatively at some gloomy shore.
A special for the historian and Rachmaninov completist but with more than
enough for the more general but mono-tolerant listener