COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov * Balakirev
LABELS: LSO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov * Balakirev
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 3; Balakirev: Russia
PERFORMER: LSO/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: LSO0779
Composed in the mid-1930s, Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony is the Cinderella of his mature orchestral works, having neither the pithiness of the First nor the clear dramatic trajectory of the Second. It doesn’t help, either, that the lush orchestration can make it sound, in insensitive hands, like a generic Hollywood-style wallow. This is not the case here. Valery Gergiev and the LSO capture the score’s expressive beauty, and also the sense of its transience as chill winter encroaches.
Gifted with the LSO’s responsive, richly expressive yet precise playing, Gergiev presents the Symphony’s drama without his usual tendency to enliven music with break-neck tempos. On the contrary, there is a genuine distinction between the unhurried Allegro moderato of the first movement’s exposition, then the Allegro of the development section. More importantly, Gergiev characterises the various distinctive themes, allowing the LSO to heed Rachmaninov’s detailed expressive marks, and never appears at a loss how to hold his listeners’ attention, even through the fugue which suddenly appears in the finale. And in the central Adagio ma non troppo movement the wintry transition between the lively scherzo section and the return of the slower tempo is truly magical.
The makeweight, Balakirev’s Russia, originally composed in 1864, heard here in its final revised form of 1907, is an apt coupling with its similarly tender lyricism and sensitive use of orchestral colour. Daniel Jaffé