Bax Tintagel; Rachmaninov Symphony No 3
I hold extremely happy memories of attending this December 2007 RFH concert, so it was even more of a pleasure to be able to reacquaint myself with Vänskä’s vibrant interpretations. His Tintagel has real fire in its belly allied to a surging momentum, and he uncovers many a fleck of exquisite detail within Bax’s endlessly resourceful and wondrously evocative scoring without ever getting bogged down in the way that scuppered Elder’s selfconsciously laboured Hallé version (12/06). The ecstatic B major sunburst that heralds the second subject’s unforgettable return has all the thrusting ardour one could wish for, if not quite the invincible majesty that the experienced Handley brings to it (the latter’s magnificently unforced BBC PO account – Chandos, 12/03 – still strikes me as the most unerringly paced yet). The justly enthusiastic applause bursts in somewhat too precipitately for comfort (not guilty, I should add!).
The Rachmaninov (complete with exposition repeat in the first movement) is just as involving, not quite as volatile or heart-on-sleeve as the recent Moscow State SO/Kogan account (Alto, 1/09) but intensely refreshing all the same in its zestful swagger, scrupulous preparation (listen out for the strings’ tastefully discreet expressive slides), limpid beauty and concern for the bigger scheme (how shrewd of Vänskä to keep in reserve such a scintillating burst of energy for the headlong closing pages). The engineering does ample justice to some splendidly selfless and thoroughly invigorating music-making, though in the Bax I found I needed to crank up the volume a notch higher than usual. A strongly recommendable issue.