Serge RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 2 in E minor (1906-08) [60:18]
Anatol LYADOV (1855-1914)
The Enchanted Lake
(1909) [6:25]
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma/Antonio Pappano
rec. in concert, November-December 2009, Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 50999 49462 2 [66:43]

I am an ardent admirer of Antonio Pappano’s work. I think particularly of his erudite TV documentary series on the history of Italian Opera and of so many of his Puccini recordings. I was looking forward to hearing his interpretation of this so Romantic of all Late-Romantic symphonies.

Alas I am disappointed. Why? Because I think it’s uninvolving. The sound might be vivid and detailed - especially the brass - with wide perspectives and, in the presto passages, exciting enough but, especially in that gorgeous Adagio, where’s the commitment and that essential Rachmaninoff emotion? It’s all too doleful, even ponderous; that lovely clarinet solo nicely executed but to my ears, dragging, cool and soulless. I was just not moved. I cannot remember another performance of this movement that has left this cynical old heart so untouched; except perhaps the too-controlled Pletnev reading. Although I would not say that Pappano consistently disappoints in this work, there are irritations elsewhere, too, probably due to the fact that this is a live recording. In the Scherzo, taken at a cracking enough pace has beautifully articulated and nicely yearning strings, yet the ensemble is occasionally a little unfocused and there is a despairing slackness in the repeat of the big tune.

My loyalties to my previous top choices remain solid. Top of these remains Previn’s passionate and intense 1973 EMI recording (5 86753-2) with the London Symphony Orchestra. And I would scarcely like to be without Rozhdestvensky’s no less beguiling and enthralling reading again with the London Symphony Orchestra now on Regis RRC 1210 - read Rob Barnett’s very enthusiastic review of this one!

Completing the CD we have a welcome change from Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise which is the fill-up on so many albums. Instead we have Pappano’s very atmospheric reading of Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, all sylvan stillness and serenity.

Not in the top league of Rachmaninoff Seconds. Try Previn or Rozhdestvensky.

Ian Lace

Not in the top league of Rachmaninoff Seconds. Try Previn or Rozhdestvensky.