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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1875 - 1945)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940) [33:41]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 (1901) [35:58]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit (Op. 45)
Alicia de Larrocha (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit (Op. 18)
rec. Memorial Hall, Philadelphia, USA, Nov 1990 (Op. 45); Kingsway Hall, London, Sept 1980 (Op. 18). DDD / ADD.
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 7701 [69:56]

Continuing the Rachmaninov series from Australia, another first release on CD, perhaps not as significant as the Kletzki and Weller releases but still worthwhile releasing to the CD-buying public. This one provides more of Charles Dutoit in romantic repertoire from Philadelphia and London, supported by the engineers delivering very good recording quality.

The Piano Concerto No.2, the audience’s favourite of the four, has been very well served on disc over the years with most pianists "having a go". As a result, the catalogue is saturated with good, mediocre and bad performances. At the last count, there were well over one hundred different performances in the catalogue, some pianists (such as Vladimir Ashkenazy) with at least three different versions, and these have been released with different couplings, making twelve different discs!

Alicia de Larrocha is primarily known for her classical and Spanish repertoire recordings. Here in a relatively rare outing into the Romantic repertoire, she gives a far from negligible performance of the Rachmaninov war-horse, aided and abetted by Dutoit and the RPO.

Dutoit recorded Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with this orchestra some years ago with Martha Argerich. That version was very well received so Miss Larrocha is in good hands for the Rachmaninov.

The main feature of this performance is a very slow, dreamy second, slow movement. If you like this sort of thing (I do), then this could be a very good purchase for you.

The coupling, also in stunning sound, is of the composer’s last orchestral work, the Symphonic Dances. These were written specifically for the orchestra on this disc and the Philadelphia’s then conductor Eugene Ormandy. They made a recording which has been available before on Sony, but in not as good sound quality.

Decca did a number of Rachmaninov recordings with Dutoit in Philadelphia, and this is another of them. Although it does not have the fire and tingling excitement of Kondrashin with the Moscow Philharmonic on BMG-Melodiya, it is by no means ignorable.

If this coupling attracts, then there is no reason at all why you should resist purchasing it, especially given that it costs just over half the Sony release, and there, the couplings are not nearly as good: Offenbach’s Gaïeté Parisienne and three dances from The Bartered Bride.

The Symphonic Dances are the last orchestral work in the composer’s catalogue and is in three movements. It has often been considered Rachmaninov’s ‘fourth symphony’, the only reason for this not sticking more permanently is the fact that the form of the work does not adhere to formal symphonic structure.

This disc makes an excellent companion to the other in the month’s Rachmaninov releases from Eloquence.

John Phillips



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