RACHMANINOV Symphony No 2
Expertly played by the London Symphony Orchestra, wisely shaped and (unusually) observing the repeat of the first-movement exposition, this performance can justifiably claim that Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is “presented in its entirety”, as it does on the CD cover. The thwack of the timpani on the first movement’s final note might give pause for thought, because Rachmaninov’s definitive score (as represented by the published edition and by the manuscript that came to light a few years ago) has that bottom E played sforzando only by the cellos and basses. But Gergiev is not alone in thinking that something more emphatic is called for and it would be unduly picky to malign the performance on that count alone. Elsewhere he has his finger firmly on the pulse.
Experienced conductors who are steeped in Rachmaninov’s idiom understand the fluctuations of pace and dynamics that animate the music, not least in the slow movement. Here the clarinet melody is lovingly but not indulgently floated and Gergiev has the sensibility to put on the pressure and to foster flexibility as the natural contours of the music demand. The risks and challenges that live performances invite are taken up and negotiated with aplomb, discretion and vitality throughout this interpretation. Gergiev has a feel for the romantic urgency of the music as well as its lyrical impulse and the LSO responds as though its life depended upon it.