Magazine article Gramophone

Rachmaninov * Balakirev: Balakirev Tamara

Magazine article Gramophone

Rachmaninov * Balakirev: Balakirev Tamara

Article excerpt

Rachmaninov * Balakirev

Balakirev Tamara

Rachmaninov Symphony No 1, Op 13

London Symphony Orchestra / Valery Gergiev

LSO Live (M) [SACD] LS00784 (61' * DDD/DSD)

Recorded live at the Barbican. London,

February 19,2015

'Vengeance is mine, I shall repay' is grimly inscribed on the opening page of Rachmaninov's First Symphony. Each movement opens with a doom-laden four-note motif, and doom certainly surrounded the symphony's birth. Its 1897 premiere, conducted by Glazunov (who was probably drunk), was a disaster. Cesar Cui bitterly criticised it, likening it to a musical depiction of the seven plagues of Egypt. Rachmaninov's confidence was shot to pieces to the extent that he was unable to compose anything large-scale until his Second Piano Concerto in 1901. He intended to revise it, but when he emigrated from Russia in 1918, the score was left behind.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Valery Gergiev's tenure as Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra was at its strongest in Russian repertoire and this release completes a superb Rachmaninov symphony cycle gradually released on LSO Live. It's a taut, gripping account, Gergiev often pushing the accelerator harder than Mariss Jansons and Mikhail Pletnev in their more expansive Russian recordings. …

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