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CD Review

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphonic Poems

  • The Rock, Op. 7
  • Prince Rostislav
  • Scherzo in D minor
  • Caprice bohemian Op. 12
  • The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Valeri Polyansky
Chandos CHAN10104 80m DDD
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Valery Polyansky is doing some absolutely sterling work for Chandos in the Russian field and this latest offering of Rachmaninoff tone poems will surely be a winner amongst his many fans and collectors.

The RSSO is a world class ensemble as demonstrated in their outstanding Glazunov cycle and when you add the superb Chandos sound, these brooding and melancholic pieces come out with a mastery that is difficult to beat.

My comparison was with a lovely Vox set featuring Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra but I must confess that Polyansky really sweeps the board in his grand interpretations that reminded me of the equally brilliant André Previn. 'Prince Rostislav' is one of Rachmaninoff's overlooked masterpieces and the account recorded here is surely at the top of the pile with Svetlanov following very close however.

I also enjoyed the vivid Caprice Bohemien or better known as Capriccio on the Gypsy Themes. I still remember an excellent Melodiya recording of that work with Svetlanov at the helm and Polyansky is his equal with much more stunning sound. A very desirable inclusion is the very rare Scherzo in D minor which brings a timing of almost 80 minutes.

You will have judged my enthusiasm for this disc by now but obviously this will be replayed if you hear for yourself! I'm sure that this is an essential part of any self respecting Rachmaninoff discography.

Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech