Telarc re-issues are
making up quite an impressive catalogue
for impecunious collectors.
Using what might conventionally
be considered "second league"
American orchestras with their resident
conductors in charge, and generally
recorded in stunning sound, there is
very little risk with these discs. This
is because generally, the second league
of American orchestras, on a good day
are almost indistinguishable from their
first league cousins. Telarcís choice
of repertoire is usually interesting
enough to make league placement irrelevant.
The current disc is
a good example. Rachmaninovís two late
orchestral works partner well, there
already being about half a dozen couplings
of these works in the catalogue, as
well as many others coupled differently.
Zinman comes up against competitors
such as Previn (LSO), Jansons (St. Petersburg
PO), Mackerras (RPO) Fedoseyev (USSRRSO),
Pletnev (Russian National Orch), to
say nothing of differently coupled performances.
With such competition, it largely comes
down to personal preference.
Where these Telarc
issues are better than most of the competition
is in the quality of the recorded sound.
Long famous as perhaps the best transatlantic
company for sound quality in general,
this current disc is well up to the
normal Telarc sound, i.e. very clear,
with a wide dynamic range, good separation,
and a highly believable acoustic.
Symphony is less well known than
the popular Second but nevertheless
is no worse as a symphonic statement
than its predecessor. It is in three
movement form, and like other late works
has a nostalgic sadness about it, perhaps
due to the poor reception his works
received in the 1920s; the fourth Piano
Concerto was unenthusiastically received
in 1927. This was his first major work
since 1910. Although in three movements
the symphonyís second movement is a
combination of slow movement and scherzo
so the four movement structure is implied.
The work is strongly
symphonic, being based upon a motto
theme heard at the outset. This is woven
into the structure and returns on a
regular basis to give a strongly unified
feeling. Rachmaninov also uses the Dies
Irae, which also appeared so successfully
in one of his earlier works for piano
and orchestra, Rhapsody on a Theme
of Paganini. The heavy brass of
the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra relish
this expert writing and the recording
allows us to revel in the sheer volume
and quality of the orchestral playing.
Zinman has been making quite a name
for himself recently with the Zurich
Tonhalle Orchestra in Beethoven, Schumann
and Strauss. We forget how good were
his performances in the States before
he took up his Swiss appointment.
The coupling is the
three movement Symphonic Dances,
which in some ways might be considered
as Rachmaninovís Fourth Symphony. It
was written for Eugene Ormandy and Rachmaninovís
favourite orchestra, the Philadelphia.
Although more dance-related than the
symphonies, it is still a serious work,
and like the Third is infiltrated with
the Dies Irae theme throughout; a leit
motif of sorts. In this Zinman is not
as good as Kondrashin, but is so much
better recorded; highly recommended.