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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Three Dances from Aleko (1892) [12:16]
Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 (1906-7)* [60:38]
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
rec. 28 April 2012; *1-2 November 2011, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 9154732 [73:05]

This is more of a supportive review to John Quinn’s excellent appreciation. I find I am in complete accord with his critique. This CD will certainly appear in my 2013 list of best recordings.
 
Like John, I have loved this Symphony ever since I purchased André Previn’s recording, on its first LP release, forty years ago, in 1973. In those days we had to endure the snap, crackle and pop of LP surfaces. I well remember being frustrated by this nuisance early on in the first movement and encountering the same problem on three subsequent copies for which I exchanged the original purchase. All were marred. Clearly this was a batch fault - not uncommon in those days.
 
Petrenko’s reading of the Symphony is slowly but firmly paced and controlled. It unravels exquisitely, the lovely Adagio especially affecting. It never becomes mawkish but is full of tender nostalgia, as though revealing lingering, cherished memories, reluctant to be released, its passionate, heartfelt climax overwhelming in its intensity. You feel a sincerity of emotion here.
 
This reading will not supersede my favourite readings of this marvellous work such as those by Previn and Ashkenazy but it will sit alongside them and be played when I feel in the appropriate mood for its very special atmosphere.
 
The RLPO is on top form and the recording is extremely well engineered.
 
The Aleko Dances make an interesting filler. The Women’s Dance is a waltz, gentle, dainty and tenderly seductive. The Intermezzo blends oriental and pastoral and the Men’s Dance is wild and frenetic but not without wit.
 
A tenderly seductive account of this great Russian symphony.  

Ian Lace 

Previous review: John Quinn