Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 is the latest release from the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The album was Recorded Live at the Barbican in London in Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound DSD 256 on September 18-19, 2019 by the team at Classic Sound Ltd.
One of Rachmaninoff’s most popular pieces, the Second Symphony is an indulgently melancholic and sentimental work: a magic box of the late-Romantic orchestra. Dramatic sections played by the full orchestra contrast heart-breaking swells that only this composer could have written.
The LSO has a long history with the Second Symphony, recording it many times with conductors such as André Previn, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Valery Gergiev. For this recording, which was captured during the opening of the London Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 season at the Barbican Hall, the Orchestra’s Music Director Sir Simon Rattle conducted from memory, performing the uncut version of this symphonic treasure.
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, Conductor
Total time: 00:58:48
Jonathan Stokes, Classic Sound Ltd.
|Original Recording Format|
Neil Hutchinson, Classic Sound Ltd.
|Release Date||March 19, 2021|
Audiophile Sound Italy
In 1973 André Previn and the LSO recorded a benchmark, uncut version of this great work for EMI, where they adopted free flowing, perfectly chosen tempi for each section and movement. Turn to Simon Rattle in the Lento introduction to the first movement and without any sense of self-indulgence you enter a more somber world, with more tempo variation, the glorious melodies are more consciously molded and the transition to the Allegro moderato is effortless. The first subject ebbs and flows, the second has a quiet sense of melancholy, the development is very dark (indeed throughout the performance one is reminded of the Isle of the Dead) the hushed ritartando prior to the recapitulation echt Romantic.
The Scherzo’s first theme is fast and buoyant, with imposing brass, the second beautifully phrased, as is the string melody in the Trio, which is announced with a jarring sforzando, forte chord and superbly played fugato, where, as always, Rattle delineates inner parts and one notes the way the LSO brass actually sound Russian in the codetta’s chorales with their echoes of the Dies Irae, Russian Orthodox music and in Rattle’s hands, Parsifal. You rarely hear a bad performance of the glorious Adagio and the LSO, led by the first clarinet Chris Richards, sing their hearts out and seem to speak to the listener, imbuing the codetta with a profound depth of feeling. In the Finale the big tune is wonderfully schmaltzy, every change of tempo entirely convincing, the coda a tour-de-force. All of which makes this a great performance that harkens back to an age where interpretive license was taken for granted.
LSO Live is one of a growing number of labels who record in DSD 256. However before looking at the sound you have to ask who on earth LSO Live employ to do their marketing, in that they seem to think it is a big deal that the score is uncut, which is now very much the norm and that Rattle didn’t use a score, which is strange given that he often conducts much longer works without one and loads of conductors do and did the same.
The actual sound is excellent. In the opening bars you can hear all the shades of piano and below Rattle creates in performance and the same applies at the other end of the spectrum, although no recording can equal the impact an orchestra makes live in fff passages. There is excellent clarity and definition with a suspicion of woodwind highlighting, although the Barbican acoustic is dreadful and Rattle’s careful balancing of parts may explain this.
Thankfully, given the marvelous melodies they are given, the string tone is sumptuous without becoming saccharine and again there is plenty of definition, so the sections are always audible. The brass rasp authentically, while the percussion has weight and crispness so you can hear the mallets hit the skins and as ever with DSD 256 and above, instrumental timbres are far more natural.
The overall balance is mid-stalls, and the halls acoustic is vividly present as is the sense of being able to walk into the orchestra, which none of the PCM formats come near to equaling.
Inner balance: 4/5
Detail and clarity: 5
Dynamic range: 5
Classical Music Sentinel
The 1907 Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 by Sergei Rachmaninov has always been considered by many to be one of the best symphonies of the 20th Century. Although stylistically I would personally classify it more in line with the late 19th century romantic movement. But there is no doubt that structurally and melodically it is the work of a master.
The allure of Rachmaninov is how he, like Tchaikovsky, could very slowly build and sustain suspense and tension which rendered the inevitable release and resolution even more intense. Add to all this the fact that it’s beautiful Adagio movement with its lush strings and forlorn clarinet melody is one of the most lyrical slow movements ever written and you have a compelling case.
Conductor Sir Simon Rattle has obviously performed this work many times. His pacing throughout is innate and unforced, as well as flexible without ever being excessive. Dynamic control is always well proportioned and orchestral balance is always in check, with no section of the orchestra unduly spotlit which is sometimes difficult to control in a live setting. The unfolding of the musical narrative, omnipresent in Russian music, is highly focused in this live performance, which apparently Sir Simon Rattle conducted from memory from start to highly exhilarating finish.
Rattle Was Clearly Enjoying Bringing Out The String Section Surges As He Conducted From Memory. The Frenzied Build To The Coda Was Exhilarating. A True Pleasure To Experience.
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