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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1875 - 1945)
Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44 (1936) [40:35]
Youth Symphony in D Minor (1891) [10:50]
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40 (1926, rev. 1927 and 1941) [25:59]
L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Paul Kletzki (Symphony); Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Vladimir Ashkenazy (Youth Symphony); Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano), London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn (Piano Concerto No. 4)
Rec. Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, August 1968. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, January 1981; Kingsway Hall, London, November 1971. ADD / DDD.
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 7692 [77:42]

Another really welcome re-issue of a much loved LP to CD. This is part of Eloquence’s August releases, featuring Rachmaninov as Composer of the Month. The present disc is made up of three treasured recordings. They make a very enjoyable programme, whether heard separately or listened to straight through.

As with the release of No. 2 with the same artists, the astonishing feature of this release is the playing of the orchestra in the symphony. The quality of the playing is superb, and the performance tingles with life, from start to finish. Anyone who loves Rachmaninov should hear this issue to find out how the composer sounds when played at white heat, and recorded "on the wing" by a superb recording team in an excellent acoustic and with the absolute top-flight of orchestral conductors.

Written towards the end of the composer’s life, the Third Symphony has never been as popular as its predecessor but this does not make it any less of a work. Compared with No.2, the lyrical quality is still as strong, but gone are the excesses; these are replaced by a sternness and a bitterness which seems out of place with this conductor.

The first two symphonies are in four movements. The Third Symphony is in three movements but none the worse for that. It is concise and kept under control by the composer, to say nothing of orchestra and conductor.

As John Culshaw says in his biography of the composer "One aspect of this symphony must be stressed more than any other ... it is remarkable for its bitterness ... it is as though Rachmaninov, having created melodies as good and as beautiful as anything else he had written before, turned on to them the savage light of his technique for purposes quite alien to his nature."

Whether you agree with this description or not makes no difference – this performance is well worth hearing from either aspect.

The couplings have been issued in the UK before on various Decca discs and have been repeatedly re-cycled, so it is likely that most enthusiasts will already have both of them. The Youth Symphony, superbly conducted by Ashkenazy and played by the glorious Concertgebouw Orchestra is coupled with Ashkenazy’s wonderful performance of Rachmaninov’s troubled fourth concerto – troubled because the composer was never satisfied with it. It was rewritten twice, and I am sure many more times than were actually published. Still the final incarnation has become loved by Rachmaninov aficionados. This recording has been reviewed over and over again since it was originally issued and it has been well thought of. I concur with this, but I must stress the strongest feature of this issue is the long-awaited release of the Kletzki Rachmaninov 3.

A superb issue, well worth its meagre asking price – don’t hesitate – buy it and enjoy – you won’t regret it.

John Phillips



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