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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44 (1935/36) [37.52]
Ten Songs (arranged for orchestra by Vladimir Jurowski (1915-72)) [20.47]
Vsevolod Grivnov (tenor)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live, 29 April 2015, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London
Song texts and English translations provided

We have already seen LPO releases of Shostakovich and of Tchaikovsky symphonies. Here the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) conducted by Russian-born Vladimir Jurowski continues to focus on Russian music with a Rachmaninov programme.

Rachmaninov composed his three movement Symphony No. 3 predominantly during a stay in Switzerland. It was in 1936 in Philadelphia that its première was given under Stokowski. In preparation for a recording Rachmaninov revised the work in 1938. In the right hands this symphony certainly has affecting power as I witnessed at the Musikfest Berlin 2012 with a quite stunning performance from the Deutsches-Symphonie Orchester Berlin under Tugan Sokhiev.

Jurowski’s overall approach is ardent and fiery with excellent control of tension and dynamics. This is combined with a sweep of glorious string sound. In the opening movement lyricism tinged with a nostalgic quality is honed and smoothly polished and the drama produced is strong and decisive. The plaintive horn solo and the melting melody on the solo violin in the Adagio are wonderfully done. That wash of silvery strings feels ravishingly passionate as well as reflective. The brusque and jagged Scherzo section provides a stark contrast. This is a colourful, bustling, vital and restlessly dramatic score.

The orchestra play marvellously well with climaxes of impressive thrust. All in all this is a performance approaching the level of drama of my preferred accounts. Rachmaninov’s cycle of three symphonies has been a constant source of enjoyment to me over the years. For anyone wanting modern versions of the Rachmaninov symphonies the most recommendable accounts come from Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko who completed his Rachmaninov cycle with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 2013 on three separate CDs on EMI/Warner Classics. Petrenko’s account of the Symphony No. 3 is coupled with a valuable performance of the Caprice bohémien and the composer’s own orchestral arrangement of Vocalise. I have recently come across a thrilling live account of the Symphony No. 3 from the NDR Sinfonieorchester under Kurt Sanderling recorded in 1994 in the Musikhalle, Hamburg. This comes as part of the ‘Kurt Sanderling Edition’ on Hänssler Profil.

In addition to the Symphony we hear a collection of twelve Rachmaninov songs in orchestrations prepared by composer Vladimir Jurowski who was the grandfather of LPO principal conductor and artistic advisor of the same name. Rachmaninov wrote some 73 songs published in various sets in a creative output between his days as a conservatoire student and emigrating to the West. It seems that Jurowski senior was requested to make these orchestrations by Ivan Kolinsky, a celebrated tenor of his day. Russian tenor Vsevolod Grivnov excels in these native language songs with his cleanly focused singing producing a splendid variety of colour and atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the stirring and triumphant tone of Christ is risen complete with the composer’s characteristic Dies irae motif, and also the longest song, Sleep with its rocking, languid quality.

This live recording would have benefited from a little more warmth even if the engineers have provided otherwise clear and well balanced sound. These songs, in their orchestrated guise, certainly provides an attraction none of the rival discs can offer.
Michael Cookson
Previous review: Ian Lace
Details of Songs:
Ten Songs, arranged for orchestra Vladimir Jurowski (1915-1972)

4. Christ is risen, Op. 26, No. 6 [2.40]
5. Before my window, Op. 25, No. 10 [1.55]
6. All things pass away, Op. 25, No. 15 [1.40]
7. The little island, Op. 14, No. 2 [1.40]
8. We shall rest, Op. 26, No. 3 [1.53]
9. What happiness, Op. 34, No. 12 [2.03]
10. I remember that day, Op. 34, No. 10 [1.18]
11. It cannot be, Op. 34, No. 7 [1.48]
12. Sleep, Op. 38, No. 5 [3.35]
13. How beautiful it is here, Op. 21, No. 7 [2.15]



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