Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E minor; Vocalise, Op. 34/14; Intermezzo and Women’s Dance from Aleko

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninoff
LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in E minor; Vocalise, Op. 34/14; Intermezzo and Women’s Dance from Aleko
PERFORMER: LSO/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 66982 2 ADD Reissue (1973-7)
This was a landmark recording of the Symphony back in 1973, almost the first to present the score uncut, and certainly the one which established it in the repertoire. It still sounds well today, with excellent sound from the Kingsway Hall, and a warmth in the strings and brass which is ideally suited to the music. What is surprising, hearing it again after a length of time, is that the ensemble isn’t always exact. The opening of the scherzo could have more knife-edge precision, and the beginning of the trio is a bit scrappy, but there is compensation in the slow movement, where Jack Brymer’s understated clarinet solo is the perfect contrast for the outpouring of string tone elsewhere. As a benchmark, I prefer Ashkenazy’s version, also at mid-price: the rubati are subtler, the tempi generally faster, which keeps the piece on a tighter rein, and the recording is more naturally balanced. Martin Cotton

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