Still active as a conductor today, Gennady Rozhdestvensky was one of the lucky few of his generation to initially achieve success both in his native Russia and abroad. Few were allowed to leave the former Soviet Union for artistic endeavors and the fact that Rozhdestvensky was able to do so after so often programming works that the Soviet government would have considered questionable is further testimony to his prowess on the podium. This album was produced after an extensive struggle with the Russian government to bring Rozhdestvensky to the helm of the BBC Orchestra. The liner notes include an amusing anecdote about Rozhdestvensky's tendency to use only a fraction of the rehearsal time allotted to him. That such precision, warmth, and insight could come from fewer rehearsals rather than more is nothing short of stunning. The program opens with a familiar standby, Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture, but quickly moves on to titanic works from the Russian repertoire that are far less familiar. Rachmaninoff's First Symphony, for instance, is frequently passed up in favor of the Second Symphony, but Rozhdestvensky command of both score and orchestra grips listeners from beginning to end and shows that this piece is just as worthy of admiration as the Second Symphony. The album concludes with Prokofiev's Ode to the End of the War, written for highly unusual orchestral forces. Rozhdestvensky again grips the attention and emotions of his listeners with his entirely passionate and spontaneous leadership.
Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 (lost; reconstructed from piano duets and orch. fragments)|