Rachmaninov: Symphony No 3 in A minor, Op 44; Symphonic Dances, Op 45

Reviewed on Thu 10 Mar, 2016

Dmitrj Kitajenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra provide excellence in this music’s Slavic drive and bittersweet lyricism, while relishing the vivid if sophisticated scoring.

This 81-minute disc couples 24-carat Rachmaninov masterpieces, both late works, Symphonic Dances his swansong, written for Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose 1960 Sony recording is definitive. Dmitrj Kitajenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra also provide excellence in this music’s Slavic drive and bittersweet lyricism, while relishing the vivid if sophisticated scoring. If the last movement hangs fire a little, Kitajenko losing out to Ormandy and the recent Paavo Järvi version on Erato (reviewed by Andrew Achenbach on 3 December 2015), this is still an account worth having; the final gong stroke is held for an eternity. As for the slightly earlier Third Symphony: what invention, what orchestration! Despite scrupulous preparation, good playing and recording, there is more intensity and dazzle in this music than Kitajenko finds (Previn, in the first of his LSO tapings, now on Warner, and Järvi are yardsticks). He omits the first-movement repeat (so too the composer). All this said, anyone smitten by these opuses will find things of interest here.
–Colin Anderson