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Petrenko’s Light, Breezy Rachmaninov Third

David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

If you regard Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony as a decadent, nostalgic remnant of Czarist Russia, then you really should hear this performance. The music couldn’t sound fresher, lighter, or more modern. It’s not that Vasily Petrenko slights those lush, romantic elements, but he certainly doesn’t dwell on them either. His handling of the “tempo rubato” second subject of the first movement is typical, and I offer a sample below. If you like it, then buy this recording. One thing is certain: there isn’t a dull moment anywhere is this performance. The music surges, flows, and dances, with an urgency and lightness that you won’t believe possible.

One other aspect of the interpretation deserves mention, and it’s an important one. It concerns dynamics. So many performances make heavy weather out of the start of the finale: the “bull in a vodka shop” approach. It’s actually very interesting, but if you consult the score (now readily available thanks to Boosey & Hawkes in a nicely printed popular edition) it’s fascinating to note that Rachmaninov’s indicated dynamics are actually only mezzo-forte in the brass, and Petrenko takes great care to ensure that the indicated volume is observed, and that the string articulation is accordingly light and bouncy. The result has a remarkable dance-like quality that’s wholly convincing.

As for the rest of the disc, the presence of Vocalise was inevitable, but the Caprice bohémien is a delightful work, far too little known, and it’s as splendidly played as the symphony. EMI’s engineers do everyone proud. If you’ve been collecting Petrenko’s Naxos recordings, you know just how well the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays for him, and so the general excellence of this release will come as no surprise. This is definitely a distinctive view of Rachmaninov, a breath of fresh air, and a nice complement to more traditional approaches.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Symphony: Mackerras (EMI)

  • Record Label: EMI - 79019
  • Medium: CD

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