of 1995 recordings by Svetlanov and the State Symphony Orchestra
of the Russian Federation (what used to be the USSRSO) has
been prepared for the Svetlanov-adoring French market. It's
a mark of their discriminating good taste and I simply hope
that Warners have the staying power to continue the series
across what is a massive archive of the conductor’s recordings.
The text for this set is in French with English translations.
recordings new to the UK catalogue although it is difficult
to keep track since there are also I think Svetlanov cycles
from the 1970s and 1980s. You can still track down his first
efforts on a deleted BMG Melodiya twofer in which the timings
(including an exciting but grievously cut Second) are 1 47:25
from 1966 2 53:49 from 1964 and 3 41:48 from 1962. The
present Second is nothing short of radiant, throbbing with
adrenaline-soaked romantic spirit.
legion competition I can claim only fragmentary knowledge
but Rozhdestvensky teamed with the most consistently inspirational
of the London's orchestras in the Second Symphony is a recipe
for something special and so it proves! There are some great
Rachmaninov Seconds out there including some surprising entries
which I will mention below but this one benefits from very
high adrenaline saturation.
various Seconds I have been greatly impressed with Jose Cura's
racy and rapid version on Avie AV0022 but my, it's
quick at 58.14 ... even allowing for cuts. It stands very
much at the other pole from Svetlanov and Rozhdestvensky.
Rozhdestvensky combines the best of the revered Previn version
on EMI but without the smeared and haloed soft-focus romantic
aura. Golovanov is on Boheme if you can find it. He gives
an eccentric performance which calls down the fire from Heaven;
certainly worth experiencing if you can bear the 1940s Soviet
mono sound. Janssons with the St Petersburg on EMI sounds
more natural but lacks the impetuosity of Cura and the flammable
spontaneity of Svetlanov or Rozhdestvensky. Another version
not to be forgotten is Kurt Sanderling's from 1989 recorded
in St Barnabas Church, Mitcham, Surrey now on Warner Classics
Apex 0927 49044 2. This plays for 67.21. Sanderling coaxes
and caresses every note and relishes every bar. His orchestra
sounds voluptuously ample and the strings sing and seethe
remarkably well. He reminded me of Ormandy whose collection
of all three Rachmaninov symphonies can be had on Sony.
Despite the long playing time Sanderling weighs and shapes
the phrases and momentum with experienced judgement. He is
hamstrung only by an arthritic finale. Despite his impeccable
Russian credentials Downes and the BBC PO did not grip my
attention. Another British conductor, Vernon Handley on Tring,
is outstanding but there's a conductor who has strong Russian
sympathies and who publicly cherishes the prospect of recording
Prokofiev 6 if only someone would be enlightened enough to
offer him the opportunity.
Symphony is the least glamorous of the performances. It's
more open textures and soloistic orchestration is well trapped
by the Russian engineers. However it is just that bit too
deliberate to be among the best.
of the acoustic, the bark and abrasion of the brass, the
rolling golden blare of the horns, the untiring silver-tungsten
tone of the violins make these versions of the symphonies
fine examples of Svetlanov's inspirational way with Rachmaninov.
No matter how meticulously they may be prepared these readings
impact on the listener as a series of there-and-then instinctive
spontaneous reactions to the scores with an orchestra hard-wired
into the conductor's psyche. Every corner is packed with
interest and emotional portent.
and unanimity is overpowering as in the grand and massive
string entry in the Symphony No. 1 first movement at 5:50.
Svetlanov’s way with a score is comparable to the greats
on a good day - Monteux in the Vanguard LSO Tchaikovsky 5
is a good example. Glazunov who conducted the heartbreakingly
disastrous premiere of Rachmaninov 1 learnt lessons which
he built into the festive finale of his own Eighth Symphony.
While there is something of the grand parade in the famous
trish-trash punched-out finale this is power-house music-making
that will leave fine readings by Ashkenazy and Jansons seeming
disc ends with a soulful Caprice Bohemien and a Russo-Mendelssohnian
scherzo. The Rock is colourful in a brooding Balakirev
and Russian nationalist way while brooding is taken to new
depths with a potent Isle of the Dead.
no escaping it, Svetlanov is an exciting conductor and you
either love his Stokowskian glare and sumptuous textures
or you will regard it is as irredeemably vulgar. I love it.