Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893) Swan Lake Suite, Op.20 (1875-6) [39:24]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943) Symphonic Dances, Op.45 (1940) [35:11]
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
rec. Great Philharmonic Hall, St Petersburg, 14 April 2008 (Swan Lake); Lucerne Concert Hall, 26 August 2008 (Symphonic Dances). DDD

For some years now Signum have been spreading their wings beyond the solo, chamber, choral and organ territories I used to associate with their name. This is the fourth of the label’s St Petersburg/Temirkanov series: Verdi Requiem (SIGCD184), Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (SIGCD194) and Prokofiev Cinderella/Romeo and Juliet Orchestral Suites (SIGCD214).

Temirkanov is under-appreciated and his Tchaikovsky is doughty as the old RCA-BMG symphony series goes to show. His Swan Lake suite – the first of two dance-related works here - is full-on and thoroughly enjoyable. Quite apart from the usual swooning highlights I was struck by his Danse Napolitaine in which these forces embrace the Capriccio Italien-style bombast of the piece in an unembarrassed bear-hug.

The suite comprises:-

Act II, No.10: Scene
Act I, No.2: Valse
Act II, No.13/iv: Danses des Cygnes
Act II, No.13/v: Pas d’action
Act III, No.20: Danse Hongroise, Czardas
Act III, No.21: Danse Éspagnole
Act III, No.22: Danse Napolitaine
Act III, No.23: Mazurka
Act III, No.27: Danses des petis Cygnes
Act III, No.29: Scène Finale

Turning to the Rachmaninov … Temirkanov obviously has a penchant for the Symphonic Dances. He has several CDs of the work in his discography: BMG-RCA 09026 62710 2 and one of his Proms performance in 2004 on Warner 2564 62050-2. The Signum version is particularly passionate and the middle movement boils, bubbles, rips and snorts with a will. The woodwind solos are done with great skill and a pleasing sense of caring and shaping is present that I have not heard before. The final dance roars and swoons mightily and Temirkanov insists on and gets plenty of grunting attack.

The Lucerne acoustic produces a more grittily immediate sound image than that for St Petersburg – not much in it but the difference is there as you can hear in the prominence asserted by the percussion. The recording generally reports plenty of detail and is assertively kind to the saxophone in the Rachmaninov.

The useful note by M. Ross reminds us how devastated Rachmaninov was by the poor reception of his Symphonic Dances’ 1941 premiere at Philadelphia. It was the 70-year old composer’s first major work to have been written entirely in the USA.

The audience are quiet in both works but their outburst of applause at the end of the Rachmaninov tramples on the decay of the tam-tam which really should have been allowed to ‘vibrer’ into black silence.

Rob Barnett

Good concert performances with the Rachmaninov enjoying more than its fair share of eminent moments.