Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2; Dances from Aleko; Scherzo

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Dances from Aleko; Scherzo
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi
Excessive emotion never runs wild in this Rachmaninov Second Symphony. Paavo Järvi keeps a tight rein on the lyrical counter-subjects of the first and second movements, flowing along wholesomely with just the right degree of bloom from the keenly-moulded if hardly lush Cincinnati strings (the urgency of the Allegro moderato could easily encompass the exposition’s repeat, though like many interpreters Järvi doesn’t provide it). There’s time to expand, though not to wallow, in the great Adagio, where the counterpoint to the clarinet melody is as interesting and deeply-felt as the main melodic event, though ultimately the big tune of the finale could do with a little more of the heart-on-sleeve manner you find in the André Previn and Andrew Litton versions. There could also, perhaps, have been more doomladen room to manoeuvre at the heart of the first movement. What makes this a performance to enjoy from start to finish are the dynamic range and natural presence of the Telarc recording, from the silky first entry of lower strings to the clear, full textures of heady climaxes.


Järvi includes a rarity among his encores, a student piece indebted to dancing Puck from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, though not at all bad for a 15 year old, and underlining the point that no Russian composer ever wrote a dull scherzo. Aleko’s gypsy dances – also the work of a talented fledgling – prove that Järvi junior runs his exuberant father close for taking delight in the nuancing of lollipops. David Nice