RACHMANINOV The Bells. Symphonic Dances
Compared with the UK and the USA, Germany has in general been slow to embrace the music of Rachmaninov, or at least to explore the repertoire more widely than the familiar concertos and symphonies. But here the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle bestow their imprimatur on two of his finest works, The Bells and the Symphonic Dances.
And exceptionally good they are, too. For The Bells, Rattle has garnered three russophone soloists in Luba Organá≈ová, Dmytro Popov and Mikhail Petrenko, all of whom are thoroughly wedded to their roles, Petrenko bringing an especially bottomless well of tone to the finale. The local Berlin Rundfunkchor excels in the fearsome scherzo and the orchestra fully illuminates the colours of Rachmaninov’s scoring. Such a small thing as being able to appreciate the timbre of the piano in the first movement makes all the difference, emphasising the fact that Rachmaninov had the skill and imagination to conjure up the sonority of bells with little recourse to bells themselves. The performance is strong on mood, individual movements probingly characterised and eloquently drawn together as a structural entity.
With the Symphonic Dances, Rattle judges the first movement’s Non allegro marking ideally: there is a decisive rhythmic pulse but also a sense of momentum, with a pleasing warmth to the alto saxophone melody at the movement’s centre. Lucid detail, refined shaping, polished instrumental solos and a shrewd way with texture and rhythmic ebb and flow contribute to an interpretation as astutely conceived as it is vital in execution.