Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Symphonic Dances; Aleko Overture

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Symphonic Dances; Aleko Overture
PERFORMER: Dmitri Alexeev (piano)St Petersburg PO/Yuri Temirkanov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62710 2 DDD
Rachmaninov’s last major work, the Symphonic Dances (1940), was dedicated to Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Their virtuoso 1960 recording remains, for many, the yardstick. Temirkanov’s new album must also be compared with the acclaimed 1993 EMI Jansons recording with the same orchestra. Temirkanov offers dramatic light and shade and, often, a more thoughtful concept, eg the strings softening the lovely theme of the central waltz movement. In contrast, Jansons takes the wider view, and his waltz lilts beguilingly throughout. Temirkanov irritatingly spotlights individual instruments too much at times, whereas Jansons is constantly riveting. He illuminates so many more little details in the score and he is much more aware that this is dance music.

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Temirkanov’s teaming with Alexeev, in the Paganini Variations, is more successful; the St Petersburg Orchestra offering a glowing accompaniment to Alexeev’s searching reading. Good though this is, competition is intense and the glorious Ashkenazy/Haitink version would be my first choice. Ian Lace