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CD Review

Sergei Rachmaninoff

  • Symphony #3 in A minor, Op. 44
  • Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
Naxos 8.573051
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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra's last Rachmaninoff album for Naxos was very well received in all quarters, both for the excellence of the playing and for the terrific sound. Slatkin has recorded all three symphonies before, in St. Louis for Vox. Those are very good, but it's clear that these performances are going to surpass those as a whole. For one, Naxos certainly provides better sound, or maybe the fabled acoustics of Orchestra Hall deserve credit. Whatever the case, the sonic picture is both full and clear. And Slatkin himself provides more exciting, carefully considered performances than previously. The results are electric.

Slatkin has always responded positively to this music, and the Detroit Symphony has played it extremely well throughout its long history. Strings and winds soar and captivate, and the brass plays out when needed. The balances are wonderful, allowing you to hear all kinds of marvelous detail. The richness of the recording allows you to hear the bass line clearly, never muddled or lost in the high strings. Special mention to the principals, who contribute to an absolutely divine adagio, and to new Concertmistress Yoonshin Song, who has the strings playing at an extraordinary level of accomplishment. Slatkin keeps things moving briskly and pushing effortlessly forward. It may not be the most physically exciting viewpoint on the market, but that never was the conductors' way. Rather, he combines keen interpretative insight with a full understanding of his orchestra's strengths. It served him well in St. Louis, and on evidence here, he's not lost his touch in Detroit.

While the first installment of the series featured a very beautiful but also predictable Vocalise, this second disc scores major points by providing the Symphonic Dances. They are also magnificently played, showing off the Detroit Symphony at its finest. Slatkin provides the same welcome energy and sense of urgency as in the symphony, leading to some exceptional moments of excitement and virtuosity. Climaxes are shattering, but also clear and audible thanks to the excellent recording. Both here and in the symphony, you can't help but be impressed by what's on display. A fine, fine disc!

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman