RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 3 / Melodie in E / Polichinelle (Alexander Anissimov/ Ireland National Symphony Orchestra/ Tim Handley) (Naxos: 8.550808)
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Sergei Rachmaninov was born in April 1873, and entered the Moscow Conservatoire in 1891to become the pupil of Siloti for piano and Arensky for composition. In 1891 he wasawarded their highest prize, the Gold Medal, and two years later had his first success asa composer with the one act opera, Aleko. He was so gifted that he had to divide his timebetween his engagements as solo pianist, conductor and composer. In 1903 he was appointedPiano Professor at the Maryinski Institute in Moscow.
As a composer he was not always successful, and suffered severe traumas after therejection of his first symphony. The story of the hypnotist that restored his confidenceis now in musical folklore. He did, however, enjoy tremendous success as a virtuosopianist, many describing him as the greatest of all the Russian virtuosos. These tourstook him to the States where he was particularly acclaimed. It was there that he decidedto make his home when the Communists took control in Russia, though he had a second homein Paris where he enjoyed taking his summers.
His list of compositions is vast, and includes three symphonies, four piano concertos,three operas, symphonic poems, and a considerable amount of vocal and chamber music. Yetit was his solo piano music that made him a household name.
He died at his home in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, in 1943, having been taken ill inthe midst of a concert to Yur.
His Second Symphony, of 1907, had proved such a success that it was strange that itshould be 28 years before he wrote the Third. During that period his music had changed ashe tried to adopt to the changing musical scene. It was still a work of melodic passion,out of the mood of the time in which it was composed, but still a work of both vigour andbeauty. It was fashioned in three long movements. After a slow introduction, the workburst forth in radiant splendour, the music demanding a virtuoso orchestra. The centralmovement is typical of Rachmaninov at his most lyrical, while the finale is one of hismost brilliant creations, highly coloured by the prominent percussion.
The Melodie in E and Polichinelle are two of his piano works gathered together underthe Morceaux de fantaisie, and though it carried the low opus number 3, Polichinelleprobably dates from the late 1930's, while the Melodie in E is a 1940 revision of anearlier work. The two works are heard here in uncomplicated orchestrations.
Made in the National Concert Hall in Dublin during April 1996, and followed publicperformances in the hall.
There are now over 25 different recordings of the Third Symphony now available oninternational release. The Classics for Pleasure recording is in the Naxos price range,and will shortly be reissued in the new launch of the label. Other than that Previn andthe London Symphony have a highly acclaimed version on EMI at mid price, more generouslycoupled than Naxos with the Shostakovich Sixth Symphony. Naxos have the advantage of tworarely performed works as fillers, not otherwise available at any price in internationalcirculation.
This is the first in a complete Rachmaninov symphony cycle from Anissimov and theNational Symphony. The series will also enclose The Bells.