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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor Op.44 (1936) [41:52]
Symphonic Dances Op.45 (1940) [36:12]
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Pavel Kogan
rec. October 1990, Moscow Film Synchro Studios. DDD
ALTO ALC1030 [77:12]
Experience Classicsonline

We have not heard much on disc from the conductor Pavel Kogan. He has however been busy and Regis seem intent on issuing his work with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra of which he has been Music Director and Chief Conductor since May 1989. Kogan comes with an exalted pedigree: son of Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels. He has also recorded the complete Tchaikovsky Symphonies and Prokofiev Symphonies 1, 5 and 6. In 1995-97 he directed concerts of Mahler’s complete symphonies and song-cycles.

Shortly after his appointment he collaborated with Joanna Nickrenz (1936-2002) and Marc Aubort in making a series of orchestral recordings at the Moscow Film Synchro studios. This is the first to appear from Regis. It involves a coupling adopted previously by Jansons (EMI) and Mackerras (EMI). It’s apt: two works written in California late during his USA exile. They were decried at the time as the effusions of a hopelessly irrelevant romantic. The world had moved on to a new maturity which had no time for nostalgic melodists. Strange really, since the cinema world of the time was rife with rollickingly scores from Korngold and Waxman. Kogan is clearly intent on delivering out and out superheated performances. In this he is aided by a red-blooded orchestra and by an unruly and sumptuous resonant acoustic that does nothing to play down the thunder. The massed violins sound as if they carry an internal glow. Everything is weighty. Solos such as the cello and violin solos at and around 12:40 in the first movement of the Symphony No. 3 are zoomed in on. Towards the end of that movement the tolling and pointed brass are very satisfying. The slight warble from the horn at the start of the Adagio adds to the authentic Soviet flavour. In the finale Kogan often takes things at a very smart clip indeed; too much so. It is better done in the hands of Svetlanov in his 1960s recording with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. Even so this is a satisfyingly done version with the yawing and yawning wails of the brass sending a shiver down the spine. As for the Symphonic Dances these are given a consistently vivacious ‘face’ with fascinating accelerations and decelerations spun in and out of the score. Overall Kogan seems to hurry the score along more than the classic account by Kondrashin with the Moscow Phil (Melodiya). Even so in the finale he is very exciting and paces things intelligently yet encouraging that sense of dangerous spontaneity that imparts life to such performances. The Dies Irae is nicely rolled out and the saxophone can be heard in pleasingly sharp focus. Regrettably the final tam-tam shot is damped and not allowed to decay as it does so much more effectively with Järvi on Brilliant Classics.

The liner notes are well done by Regis-Alto-Forum regular, James Murray.

Overall this is a generous and inexpensive disc with big-hearted performances fully engaged with the elemental Russian temperament. They are captured in fine technicolor recordings that are eminently suited to these broodingly coloured and impassioned works.

Rob Barnett




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