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Cat. No. CHAN 9665 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9665 - Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2
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Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2

In 1906, shortly after the Revolution of 1905, Rachmaninov and his family went to Dresden, where he was to devote himself to composing, particularly to the Second Symphony. By January 1907 he had completed the sketches and subsequently orchestrated it. This is one of Rachmaninov’s longest and most lyrical works. The scale of the Symphony is not unreasonable, for part of the inventive expansion that characterizes this phase of his music is his interest in working with long-breathed themes. These need the full length of the work to find their complete symphonic realization. In turn Rachmaninov was well aware that a sound structure was necessary in order to support the music, so he makes use of a motto theme to provide a unifying framework and to guide the listener’s ear. Ten years later, Revolution again drove Rachmaninov from his homeland, but this time permanently.
Cut off from the well-springs of his native tongue, he abandoned opera and song, but the Three Russian Songs were a rare exception. The first, a short tale of a drake whose beloved grey duck flies off, is a choral setting for basses in unison. Rachmaninov draws upon his orchestral resources to give a picture of the drake’s dismay and his sorrowful calls in a long
orchestral sigh. The second song is for altos alone, and is a gentle lament for the loss of a lover, again with a heartfelt sigh at the end. The third uses a three-part choir and is, unusually, a wry comedy. A wife who has been unfaithful at a party acts in pretended bemusement and terror as her husband approaches her with a ’present’ of a silken whip!


                      Performance ****          Sound ****
"...Rachmaninov’s Second is one of his most lyrical works but also one of the largest, lasting an hour or more. Within his own lifetime a tradition of drastic cuts arose, although, as often happens, by destroying its structure this tended to make the music seem more episodic and showy. These days, however, it is more often presented complete, especially in the rash of recent recordings, many by Russian conductors and orchestras. Polyansky’s, at 59:55 in all, is by no means the longest, but at times it feels so. He gets a warmly idiomatic and unforced reading from his orchestra, but one rather lacking in tension and dynamism. It is by no means bad, but it does not match up to the many rival recordings such as Rozhdestvensky’s rich version (at bargain price) or the sweeping emotional Temirkanov, to name only a couple. Polyansky, however, is a choral specialist, and makes an impressive job of the three songs, with their massive orchestral undertow - more so than his current rival, Dutoit, especially as he does not use a Russian chorus..."
Michael Scott Rohan - Classic CD - November 1998



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