Symphony No 1 / Symphonic Dances
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Audio CD, 12 February 2021
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- Product Dimensions : 12.6 x 14.2 x 1 cm; 91 Grams
- Manufacturer : Deutsche Grammophon
- Manufacturer reference : 39734002
- Original Release Date : 2021
- Label : Deutsche Grammophon
- ASIN : B08KJ553S2
- Number of discs : 1
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Les Danses Symphoniques de Rachmaninov, nouvel album du réputé chef d’Orchestre Yannick Nézet-Séguin accompagné du Philadelphia Orchestra.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin présente ainsi 40 ans de la vie du compositeur tentant à travers cette œuvre de retransmettre le brio, l’inventivité et la mélancolie qui avaient accompagné Rachmaninov tout au long de sa vie. Cette oeuvre est considérée comme l’une des partitions orchestrales les plus brillantes de Rachmaninov. Celle-ci est composée de trois mouvements, dont la deuxième reconnue pour être entièrement dédiée au chef d'orchestre Eugene Ormandy et à l'orchestre de Philadelphie qu’il a longuement dirigé.
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Of course, the article was published near the peak of an anti-Romantic period when all but the most abstract music was laughed at by the cognoscenti. As Stephen Hough noted, the attitude even extended to architecture, with charming historic homes and buildings being torn down in favor of lifeless modernist monoliths.
Within 15 years of the article’s publication, the opposite of the Grove’s prediction was proving to be true. The composer’s Second Symphony, Second and Third Concertos, and Paganini Rhapsody were as popular as ever. Moreover, works which were perceived as failures during Rachmaninoff’s lifetime (some labelled as such by the composer himself) began to enter the active repertoire thanks to the advocacy of committed interpreters. These works include the Second Piano Sonata, the All-Night Vigil, and, of course, the First Symphony – a work that suffered from a disastrous premiere under the baton of a drunken Alexander Glazunov. It is especially fitting that the coupling on this disc is the Symphonic Dances, Rachmaninoff’s last composition, which references the First Symphony and the All-Night Vigil, and which also took decades to enter the active repertoire.
Rachmaninoff was a skilled conductor and was offered (and declined) contracts with both the Boston Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony in 1917. When he finally consented to conduct for recordings, he selected the Philadelphia orchestra, which he had previously declared the world’s finest, stating that European audiences had not heard its equal.
Based on the above, I desperately wanted to love this disc, featuring Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Sadly, it has failed to meet my expectations. The performance of the First Symphony is competent but lacking the spark that Ashkenazy and Rozhdestvensky have brought to the piece. The Symphonic Dances fare a bit better, but Nézet-Séguin’s primarily architectonic interpretation of the piece provides structural solidity at the expense of some of the work’s finer points, resulting in a rather colorless second movement waltz which is missing the haunting quality of Ashkenazy’s or Previn’s versions; to say nothing of Nézet-Séguin’s bloodless view of the third movement’s central section (which should tread the line between voluptuous and lurid as Kondrashin’s version with the Moscow Philharmonic does). In the end, this disc offers clean run-throughs of the music in question, but is wanting in the commitment that truly makes for a performance - which is ironic given that the recordings derive from live performances.
The Rachmaninoff revival shows no signs of abating as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century. While there are numerous recordings that will be cited as hallmarks of that revival, I am confident that this disc will sadly not be one of them. That said, the sound is excellent, and on a minor note, I must confess to being pleased that Deutsche Grammophon has finally consented to spell the composer’s name as the composer preferred.