Vasily Petrenko

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1; Prince Rostislav

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Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13, seems to have finally bounced back from its disastrous premiere, at which César Cui said that it would be appreciated by the inmates of a conservatory in hell. Dating from 1896, it is an early work in the vein of Tchaikovsky, and the primary requirement is a conductor who can accurately both drill and inspire an orchestra into delivering the extremes of dynamic range. This is accomplished in grand style by the fast-rising Russian Vasily Petrenko, who gets really superb and perhaps even hitherto-unsuspected work out of the brasses of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. There are other contemporary recordings of the work; the one by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra probably has more shades. But Petrenko's version will get your attention, and it's bolstered as a choice by a pair of factors. First is the presence of a comparative Rachmaninov rarity, Prince Rostislav, a symphonic poem based on a novel by Alexey Tolstoy (cousin of Leo). Written in 1891, while Rachmaninov was still a student, it's an action-packed 15 minutes of music. Second is the unusually good live sound from Warner Classics, which gets the full spectrum of sound from the here-oversized Liverpudlians. A nice find from the revived Warner Classics label.

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