Liapounov: Symphonie No. 2

Evgeny Svetlanov

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Liapounov: Symphonie No. 2 Review

by James Leonard

There have been only two recordings of Liapunov's Symphony No. 2: the first one by Evgeny Svetlanov from 1969 with the USSR Symphony Orchestra and the second one by Evgeny Svetlanov from 1998 with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. In this case, two recordings are enough. As much as any conductor can, Svetlanov owns Liapunov's Symphony No. 2. He gave the work its premiere in 1951 and he has championed the work throughout his long career. Indeed, this November 27, 1998, performance was the work's French premiere and it is as rich and warm and heartfelt a performance as the 1969 performance and perhaps even a bit more polished.

Liapunov's Symphony No. 2 is a tremendous work of enormous strength and profound depths, a four-movement work of nearly an hour's duration that is the climax, the culmination, and the collapse of the silver age of Russian music. Imagine a more excitable Rachmaninov or a less excitable Scriabin. Imagine a Borodin with vaster symphonic aspirations or a Glazunov with a more pessimistic weltanschauung. Imagine a work of unrelenting ferocity, overwhelming intensity, and apocalyptic ambitions. If that sounds like your kind of thing, Liapunov's Second is your kind of symphony. Naïve's sound is cavernous and a bit harsh at climaxes. That's okay: it suits the work.

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