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Symphonic Dances

Price: CDN$ 70.95
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The most convincing Symphonic Dances on CD May 7 1999
By Anonymous - Published on
If you want to understand Rachmaninov's last masterpiece -- the Symphonic Dances -- you must listen to this CD. Kondrashin brings out the latent emotional power of the Dances in a way no-one else does. Others, for example Ashkenzy, play this music as a mere orchestral display piece. Kondrashin makes it heard-rending.
The Bells is also an excellent performance, but here the weird Soviet engineering (fully acceptable in the Dances) is more of a problem, with its spotlight on solo singers, and problems with the loudest passages.
But this CD is essential in any Rachmaninov collection.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Hold On To Your Mind July 27 2000
By Michael Newberry - Published on
This Symphonic Dances, for me, is the best version hands down! And that "hands down" is delivered with a thunderous slam on the table. Kondrashin's conducting is deliciously wild, erotic, pathetic, glorious, cataclysmic, and catastrophic. He keeps a Toscanini-like command of the structure of the whole piece. He weaves in and out of big phrases, being tender one moment and aggressively stretching the limits of the music in other parts, and throughout the hauntingly gorgeous melodies are inflicted onto us. In the last minutes of the piece the music builds up so much passion, tension, and raw energy, becomes so orgasmic, that the sweep absolutely obliterates understanding, and the whole concept crashes into chaos.
The Previn and Ashkenazy versions are anemic by comparison. The sound is quite good for a '63 recording, and the included Bells is equally great except for the disappointing soprano.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Spectacular, thrilling...Noisey! Aug. 6 2007
By vmzfla - Published on
No one can doubt the true Russian authority of these early 1960s performances by Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic. Judging by the high Amazon prices, it is surely a rare collectors item. Beware before buying that BMG decidedly through enhanced remastering, attempts to bill it as a sonic-blockbuster. To Rachmaninov's credit, he took the romanticism of the 19th century and powerfully launches it into the 20th century. Rachmaninov's last work, "Symphonic Dances"(1940)is actually a consumation of quotations from some of his other important compositions. The recording though vivid suffers from shrillness and is uneven in detail and balance throughout but is most evident in the 3rd. movement finale. "The Bells"(1913) a choral symphony with words by Edgar Allan Poe, does not do much better. Orchestra and soloists are projected forward, so the sound ends up in your lap! The composer takes the listener through an ingenious musical romp from cradle to grave. Each movement relying on a different kind of bell, ie. silver, gold etc. The last movement is most subdued, depicting the feel of heavenly ascension after death. This is not a bad recording, but a more subtle digital remastering process would have been a benefit. The historic value of keeping Kiril Kondrashin in the catalogue may warrant an additional star.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Coruscating brilliance - with a BUT May 17 2010
By Jurgen Lawrenz - Published on
Rachmaninov's score cries out for a big, ample, glossy recording. This is what you do not get here. The recording dates from 1963, and in those years Russian taping technology was still miles behind that of Westerners. Yet far be it from me to say the sound is unpleasant. There is air around the orchestra, no engineers' monkey tricks. You hear exactly what the tapes of the day could give you. But from a sheer sonic perspective, the recording is clearly limited. The best modern version with all the excitement of a splendid performance and brilliant sound is Polyanski's on Chandos.Rachmaninov: The Bells/Symphonic Dances
Having said this, as a performance this version by Kondrashin is probably unbeatable. From the first to the last note he lashes the orchestra to play as if the Devil was behind them. The virtuosity of the horns, especially in the final pages, is truly breath-taking, electrifying. Kondrashin sense of rhythm is astonishing in its infinite flexibility and variety. He doesn't stomp, but imposes an uncanny rubato on his players so that you are constantly surprised, even when familiar with the score. And I have to say that, having heard this twenty or more times, the excitement does not wear out. True genius like this can survive repetition.
To hear for yourself how this works, you might compare the opening of No. 3 with other recordings. Hushed, as if swept by the wind, goblins rush bye, until the whole string band suddenly brings us a velvety unisono that makes your hair stand on end. No other reading can match this sense of dark diablery, of something hidden that soon bursts out in the infamous Dies Irae. And there are many places like this in the work that apparently only Kondrashin noticed and manages to bring out.
I look upon The Bells as a filler. It is not as exciting; but I confess at once that I don't like the music much; it is so derivative and "standard Rachmaninov" that even Kondrashin can't marshal a similar excitement as in the Dances. But for me, the Dances are worth the price of the whole album.
Grab it while it's going. This is one of those recordings that make you grateful we invented microphones!
Great performance.. but... June 26 2011
By Victor Eremita - Published on
Verified Purchase
Artistically, it's great. Wonderful performance. Unfortunately somewhere either in the recording, or mastering, is introduced piercing distortion. It's still my preferred recording (there aren't so many of The Bells to choose from), but by no means perfect.

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