welcome this disk not least because I attended two of the
three concerts represented here. What a wonderful reminder
of a couple of very satisfying evenings in the concert hall
Rozhdestvensky, or Noddy as the players called him, had a
short tenure with the BBC Symphony Orchestra but he achieved
much with regard to programming Russian music as well as
giving some excellent performances of Delius and Elgar. In
fact, a fine Elgar 2nd Symphony
the second half of the programme which included the Prokofiev
thing which, at the time, fascinated, and amused, me about
the Prokofiev Ode
was the fact that it contained parts
for eight harps and four pianos. I remember thinking what
an idiot Prokofiev must have been to use these forces and
for the past thirty years I have carried the memory that
the piece was a waste of time. Hearing it again I discover
a rather good work. State sponsored celebration to be sure,
but there’s some good things in it – the allegro
muted trumpet and swirling woodwinds, and a more relaxed,
almost pastoral, section, static and rather beautiful. Unlike
thirty years ago, I am more than willing to listen to this
piece again. Thank goodness I’ve grown up a bit in the intervening
wasn’t as well known in 1979
as it is today and, at the time, this performance was a revelation.
It’s high powered, passionate and forthright, and you’d think
that the members of the BBC Symphony had been playing it
every season, so much in touch with the music are they. Noddy
directs a very dramatic performance, the first movement is
quite startling in its stark, unrelenting, forward momentum.
The scherzo isn’t the playful thing some conductors make
of it, and the slow movement is dark and tragic. The finale,
starting with the famous fanfare, is all headlong race, but
it’s never rushed, hell–for–leather, death and glory stuff.
The slow coda, full of trumpets, drums, timpani and tam-tam
is positively apocalyptic - a word I seem to use often when
writing and talking about Rachmaninov’s orchestral scores.
There are a couple of deviations from the score as we now
know it, the most startling being the omission of the little
brass tucket which precedes the big statement of the motto
theme in the finale. This should not worry us for this is
an interpretation of great stature and one of the best performances
of the work currently available. This, alone, is worth the
price of the disk.
nicely done and makes a satisfactory start to the concert.
recordings are beautifully clear and precise, the orchestra
well focused and there are some bits of orchestration I’d
never noticed before in the Rachmaninov. This is not to be
missed at any cost for it is a superb reminder of Noddy’s
time with the BBC and how he brought out the very best in