Rachmaninov: Symphony No 2 in E minor, Op 27; The Isle of the Dead, Op 29

Reviewed on Thu 14 Mar, 2019

It's hard not to warm to such a supremely tasteful, winningly communicative and agreeably spontaneous display.

Andrew Gourlay secures refreshingly lithe and conspicuously articulate accounts of both these Rachmaninov masterworks on this first in-house release from the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León. Not only does Gorlay elicit consistently eager results from his players (he's been their principal conductor since the start of 2016), he plots an impressively cogent course through the mighty Second Symphony. Phrases are shapely, tempi judicious and textures sifted with meticulous skill – so much so, in fact, that I for one would have welcomed the inclusion of the substantial first-movement exposition repeat! No matter, it's hard not to warm to such a supremely tasteful, winningly communicative and agreeably spontaneous display. The symphony is preceded by a comparably unflustered, fresh-faced traversal of The Isle of the Dead. Again, don't expect the volcanic intensity of a Svetlanov (I'm thinking in particular of his riveting USSR SO performance from the 1968 Proms on BBC Legends) or the richly upholstered corporate sonority offered by, say, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Ashkenazy (Decca) or Previn's LSO (Warner), but there's ample compensation in the willing application, sense of purpose and affectionate wonder on show. Boasting admirable sonics and presentation, this release represents a genuine tonic.
–Andrew Achenbach