Rachmaninov - Symphonic Dances
London Symphony Orchestra / Valery Gergiev
LSO Live LSO0688 Buy now
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, Op 45
Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements
Recorded live at the Barbican, London, May 2009
The first movement of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances is marked Non allegro, one of those tricky indications that lets you know what the pace shouldn’t be but is not really more positively explicit. Rachmaninov clearly wanted to discourage undue speed but it is hard to imagine that he had in mind the sluggishness that Gergiev prefers here. Other conductors of this now happily much-recorded final orchestral work of Rachmaninov’s manage to find a tempo that is not fast but nevertheless has inner momentum to give the music a sense of direction; but Gergiev’s performance hangs fire. The valse triste of the central movement, while at times aptly mysterious and sultry of atmosphere, lacks the supple pulse of the dance and it is not until the finale that the interpretation gathers spirit, although even here Gergiev tends to pull back detrimentally in the slower middle section. He elicits a fair amount of instrumental detail from Rachmaninov’s luminous scoring but it is at the cost of cohesive overall structure.
However, the indulgences of the moment that he permits himself in the Symphonic Dances are expunged in Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, which, like the Rachmaninov, was recorded live at London’s Barbican in May 2009. This is a big-boned performance, its syncopations crisply articulated by the LSO, its powerful rhythmic impetus kept on a tight rein, its palette of timbres well delineated. So this is one of those maddening discs that might be recommendable for one of the works but not for the other.