What a coup for Naxos to land Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony in their roster! And how nice it is to hear my home-state orchestra recording again, starting things off the right way with a killer Rach 2.
I've heard two other recordings of this symphony: The echt-Russian Temirkanov reading that impressed me with its intensity, and the Ashkenazy recording that was notable for the way it caressed individual moments within the larger framework. Slatkin charts a third course, focusing on generating an unwavering forward momentum in each movement. This doesn't necessarily mean he's faster than the rest (though he does shave a minute off Temirkanov's already quick timing in the Scherzo); he just keeps his focus on the long line of each movement and refuses to let the symphony bog down in its own weight. Playing snippets of this new recording against either of the other two recordings above doesn't work to the newcomer's advantage; played straight through, however, Slatkin's reading ends up being more compelling than either of them. He manages to weave this sometimes sprawling work into a coherent whole, and the "rightness" and confidence of his vision, coupled with the top-shelf playing of the DSO, make this warhorse symphony sound new again. That's as good a definition of a classical-music success as I can think of, and I'm proud to add this recording to my shelf alongside the other two.
(This is a live recording, but the well-behaved audience is virtually silent until they explode after the last note. It's the perfect cap to a wonderful performance.)