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Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 etc (Sinfonia of London/Wilson)

Sinfonia of London/John Wilson (Chandos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
CHSA 5309_Rachmaninoff

Symphony No. 2; Prelude in C sharp minor (arr. Stokowski)
Sinfonia of London/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5309 (CD/SACD)   64:02 mins


Achieving an ideal equilibrium between warm-hearted expression and structural coherence in a work of epic length such as Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is something of a challenge. All too often, interpreters gravitate towards one extreme, either over-indulging in the seemingly constant stream of glorious melodies, with the danger that the direction of the musical argument is seriously compromised, or conversely approaching the music in a more matter-of-fact manner, thereby undermining the work’s overall emotional trajectory. In this warmly recorded release, John Wilson appears to get the balance just right.

There’s plenty of heft as well as requisite warmth in the big orchestral climaxes, for instance near the end of the slow movement, or in the triumphant coda to the Finale. But Wilson is careful not to overplay his hand, ensuring that the levels of intensity are judiciously calibrated. On initial hearing, therefore, the gloomy slow introduction to the first movement may sound more contained than in some other performances. But structurally, it makes perfect sense to hold back here, particularly since Wilson opts to observe the exposition repeat which inevitably extends the scale and scope of the movement as a whole. Furthermore, thanks to superbly incisive playing from the Sinfonia of London, all the technically challenging and transparently scored passagework, which is scattered throughout the first, second and fourth movements, is deftly handled with an exemplary clarity of texture and lightness of touch. An added bonus is the blockbuster performance of Stokowski’s remarkable orchestral arrangement of the famous C sharp minor Prelude which opens the programme.


Erik Levi