Reviewed on Fri 27 Oct, 2017
Keen of purpose, meticulously observant and free of exaggeration, Ashkenazy's lucid conducting is always entirely at the service of music.
Vividly captured by the microphones at a concert on 17 November 2016 in London's Royal Festival Hall, this is Vladimir Ashkenazy's third recording of Rachmaninov's thrillingly ambitious First Symphony. Not only is it marvellously well played by the Philharmonia (whose memorably articulate strings in particular are a constant source of pleasure) and mercifully free of the textual 'improvements' encouraged by many a high-profile rival, it is also, to my ears, markedly more involving than either of its predecessors with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca) and Sydney SO (Exton). Keen of purpose, meticulously observant and free of exaggeration, Ashkenazy's lucid conducting is always entirely at the service of music and eagerly appreciative of both the extraordinary depth of feeling and myriad thematic interconnections that help make this youthful canvas such a hugely stimulating experience. The great Yevgeny Svetlanov's volcanic 1966 recording with the USSR SO may remain the interpretative touchstone, but, among digital contenders, Ashkenazy's splendidly accomplished and consistently invigorating new version must rank very highly indeed.