Rachmaninov: Symphony No 2 in E minor, Op 27; Aleko (Three Dances)

Reviewed on Wed 22 May, 2013

Vasily Petrenko and his Merseyside cohorts have come up with another out-and-out winner here. That Rachmaninov's epic Second Symphony can rarely have sounded so enviably taut is all the more remarkable given Petrenko elects to observe the sizeable repeat in the first movement. It's a thrillingly confident interpretation which cannily combines painstaking preparation with an acute awareness of the bigger scheme; indeed, the cumulative power and edge-of seat thrust in the symphony's closing pages have to be heard to be believed! On the whole Petrenko eschews heart-on-sleeve emotion – which is absolutely not to say that the finished article stints on either romantic fervour or infectious spontaneity. The orchestral playing has stamina, poise and dedication in abundance, while the EMI microphones capture everything with ear-pricking fidelity. Three excerpts from the composer's early opera Aleko (the central “Intermezzo” an especially bewitching morsel) round off a classy release.
–Andrew Achenbach