Rachmaninov: The Bells; Spring; Three Russian Songs

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: The Bells; Spring; Three Russian Songs
PERFORMER: Alexandrina Pendachanska (soprano), Kaludi Kaludov (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 440 355-2 DDD
Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1849 of ‘the tintinnabulation that so musically wells/From the bells, bells, bells, bells,/Bells, bells, bells’. By a strange twist it is music and not the printed page that now keeps the poem alive – in a Russian version by Balmont. The Philadelphians sing in creditable Russian to accommodate their three Russian soloists, of whom the soprano Pendachanska is an exciting discovery.

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Charles Dutoit handles the work with excellent sensitivity and warmth: I would love to have heard this performance in the concert hall. On disc it is marred by a slightly congested sound and an insufficiently wide range of volume: we get nothing like the proper difference between fff at the end of the third movement and pp at the beginning of the fourth. Leiferkus, whose baritone never seems to lose its dramatic impact, reappears in the unfamiliar Spring, a powerful monologue of jealousy (with chorus). The choral folksong settings are less interesting, or perhaps need a Russian choir to give them greater bite. Arthur Jacobs