Rachmaninov: The Isle of the Dead; Symphonic Dances

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: The Isle of the Dead; Symphonic Dances
PERFORMER: LPO/Vladimir Jurowski
LPO are now following the example of their LSO and the Concertgebouw colleagues by launching their own label. These Rachmaninov performances under Vladimir Jurowski certainly have a lot going for them. Our leading Rachmaninov scholar, Geoffrey Norris, reviewing the actual concert called the Symphonic Dances ‘quite simply superb’ and spoke of ‘its energy, lucidity and poignancy of atmosphere’. And he is absolutely right. Although The Isle of the Dead was in the pre-war catalogues, it was not until the late 1950s that the Symphonic Dances was recorded by Leinsdorf and Goossens. Both works grow in stature on each occasion one revisits them and both have been well served on CD by such distinguished advocates as Mikhail Pletnev (on DG) and Mariss Jansons (on EMI) – and no one who has heard Koussevitzky or Rachmaninov himself in The Isle of the Dead could doubt its intensity of vision and its impressive hypnotic power. The present accounts recorded at the Festival Hall in 2003 and 2004 find the orchestra in responsive form and can hold their own against most rival versions, not only as performances but as recordings. The sound in both is finely detailed and wide ranging, the aural perspective lifelike and truthful, and there is striking presence. In these dedicated performances both works cast a powerful spell. (One trivial point: the sleeve gives an inaccurate playing time of 50:45). Robert Layton