Jurowski conducts Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony

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COMPOSERS: Sergey Rachmaninov
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; 10 Songs (arr. Jurowski)
PERFORMER: Vsevolod Grivnov (tenor); London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski


If you think of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony as an orchestral showpiece which occasionally falters, Vladimir Jurowski’s interpretation may change your mind. It did mine at the concert that concluded his Rachmaninov season with the LPO, an impression confirmed by this recording of that occasion. The composer himself conducted a great but very different recording, and Jurowski follows him in omitting the first-movement repeat and a couple of bars; there’s no need to hear the exposition again when the depths are plumbed. The momentum then builds to anguished violins writhing at the ultimate cataclysm. A hint of Rachmaninov’s beloved Philadelphia string sound surfaces in a few portamentos, but there’s no gloss. The beautiful, sombre line continues in a chain of superb solos for the central movement and the finale, for once, has no longueurs. So this stands with Rachmaninov’s own performance at the top of a long list.

Earlier in the same concert, Jurowski featured his distinguished grandfather’s orchestrations of ten Rachmaninov songs for the great Russian tenor Ivan Kozlovsky. That’s reason enough to entrust them all to a contemporary counterpart, the excellent Vsevolod Grivnov, and though a soprano might have been welcome in the more introspective raptures, Grivnov scales down heroics to a touching intimacy. Darker colours are required for negative images, and the most exquisite touches are reserved for Rachmaninov’s bewitching masterpiece The Dream. The poets aren’t credited; you should recognise ‘We shall rest’ as Sonya’s final speech in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. An added bonus of the CD is that you’re spared the sprinkling of applause which followed each song.


David Nice