Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 1 in D minor (1895) [45:32]
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1 (1891, rev. 1917) [24:37]
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
rec. August 2012, Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore.
This release follows on from Lan Shui’s recordings of Rachmaninov’s
symphonies, and with reliably high quality engineering from BIS, superb
orchestral playing and the superlative pianism of Yevgeny Sudbin this
is likely to do well for all concerned.
Referencing Mikhail Pletnev’s excellent Deutsche Grammophon
recording of the Symphony No. 1 (see review)
shows similar timings between him and Shui, though the latter is a
little more expansive in the third Larghetto movement. I like
the comparison with Pletnev since both of these recordings share a
sense of excitement which has an underlying fizz, although Shui also
shares something of the more overt theatricality of Valeri Polyansky on
Chandos (see review),
falling somewhere in between the two. Tastes differ and mine has developed
in Rachmaninov over time, meaning my feelings towards Polyansky have
overtaken those which had previously given me a preference for Pletnev.
Although the première of the work became a notorious disaster,
Rachmaninov clearly sought to impress with his first symphonic outing,
and the youthful energy and ardour in the work deserves to be allowed
its full breadth and scale to be expressed. Shui certainly has an
ear for the romantic passion behind the notes, though others have
brought out the Russian spirit more in terms of orchestral colour
- this based on the greater glossy shimmer he obtains, rather than
more lower-frequency rich earthiness you hear from the Russian State
SO on Chandos.
With this lighter, more transparent sound we have elegance rather
than a gripping emotional journey undertaken in the Larghetto.
The playing is beautiful throughout and this is a version I could
live with fairly happily, but I do miss that tug at my heartstrings
at certain points. The marvellous finale ticks all the boxes however,
sounding really spectacular through SACD channels if perhaps a little
The work of a composer still in his teens, Rachmaninov’s Piano
Concerto No. 1 has numerous terrific recordings from which to
choose, and my default selection is that with Vladimir Ashkenazy and
André Previn on Decca. These 1970s and 80s recordings still
sound very good, and there is a synergy between these two performers
and the LSO which is hard to beat. Talking of synergy, just as with
the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini on BIS-1988, there is something
about the chemistry with Sudbin added to the mix which raises Lan
Shui and the Singapore SO from the merely excellent to something spectacularly
special. Yes, the piano takes up a huge amount of the acoustic space,
so this is something of a hyper-experience which stretches believability
at times, but if you don’t mind your mind being blown then crank
up the volume to the opening Vivace and feel your jaw drop.
The eloquence of Sudbin’s playing in the central Andante
is a joy, the orchestra responding warmly in the background, and the
final Allegro vivace is another crackling set of fireworks,
a display which delivers as much in musicality as it does in technical
This is a praiseworthy release though once again it is Yevgeny Sudbin
who steals the show.
See also review of the 24/96 download by Dan
Masterwork Index: Piano
concerto 1 ~~ Symphony