Read the chapter on Sergei Rachmaninov in the old two-volume Pelican survey of "The Symphony," edited by the late Robert Simpson, and you will find that, by the mid-1960s, the Russian's reputation had reached its nadir. Simpson, who himself wrote the chapter, calls the Second Symphony (1908) "diffuse" and refers to the composer's tendency to "take the easy way out." Simpson stints the Third (1936) even more than the Second, while reserving some praise for the (then) newly discovered First (1897). Perhaps the underestimation comes from Simpson's having been a totally different kind of composer from his subject; but Simpson's assessment might have been made by many another at that date. Of Rachmaninov's three symphonies, one heard only the Second in the concert hall, and then only in a performing edition with many cuts. On record, the situation differed but little. Things have changed a great deal in forty years. All three of Rachmaninov's symphonies have found their way back into the repertory and are especially well represented in the compact disc catalogues. The current critical consensus probably places them above the piano concertos in musical seriousness. New recordings appear all the time, and the Second, with the cuts restored, exists in many recorded editions. The new release from Telarc with Jésus López-Cobos leading the Cincinnati Symphony certainly takes its place in the front rank of "R2's." In sumptuous sound, it rivals Valéri Polyanksy's performance with the Russian State Orchestra on Chandos. (The Telarc recording is via one of those proliferating new processes -- whatever the explanation, it booms out magnificently from the speakers.) The Second's First Movement begins with an introduction that glowers darkly; it's Rachmaninov at his most melancholy. It then blossoms out into a gorgeous, insinuating theme that the composer develops leisurely but ingeniously. Many performances push the First Movement and press the climaxes for all that they're worth. López-Cobos holds back (as does Polyansky) so that greater weight can be placed on the three remaining movements. The Slow Movement glows; the Scherzo is wild, and so is the terrific Finale, which, at last, bears the full weight of the composition. The sound is wonderful, with plentiful detail and a spacious "stage." The "Vocalise" is likewise nicely done, coming across as more serious than it usually does. Marvelous. Recommended.