Rachmaninov: Symphony No 1 in D minor, Op 13

Reviewed on Fri 03 Mar, 2017

The work's shattering peroration doesn't ideally tear at the heartstrings in the inimitable Svetlanov manner, though in the slow movement I do love the tender intimacy Feltz finds in the main theme's extraordinarily touching reprise on the clarinets at around 6'30”.

Stitched together from two live performances that took place in Dortmund's Konzerthaus towards the end of February 2016, this is a far from negligible account of Rachmaninov's youthful symphonic masterpiece. Like so many of his colleagues, Gabriel Feltz is not averse to tinkering with the reconstructed full score (there are liberal dollops of extra percussion to contend with), but on the whole he proves a solid guide through this amazingly ambitious edifice. The work's shattering peroration doesn't ideally tear at the heartstrings in the inimitable Svetlanov manner, though in the slow movement I do love the tender intimacy Feltz finds in the main theme's extraordinarily touching reprise on the clarinets at around 6'30”. The finale's introductory call-to-arms is taken at such a lick that it acquires an unhelpful element of bluster; nor do I particularly care for Feltz's fussily exaggerated ritardando towards the close of the scherzo. At the same time, there's much to admire, not least some painstaking preparation which ensures that the orchestral playing is both tidy and committed. No real match, then, for Svetlanov, Pletnev, Kocsis, Anissimov or de Waart (whose 1978 Rotterdam PO version is a real dark horse), but worth hearing none the less. Superb sound, too.
–Andrew Achenbach