Symphonies Nos.1-3 Box set
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All of Pletnev's acclaimed Rachmaninov recordings with the Russian National Orchestra in a single box for the first time. Also includes the tone-poems The Rock and Isle of the Dead, and Taneyev's cantata John of Damascus. Sung texts and translations included.
Top Customer Reviews
de Mikhaïl Pletnev avec l`ensemble the Moscow State Chamber Choir pour la final...Formidable.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My focus on this is the finale of the Symphonic Dances, which sounds almost "slow" before some other recordings I've flicked through. The concluding movement is a mad dash between opposing light and dark, not some laid-back mosey through the meadow. And it's not! Pletnev trades off raw speed for great nuance: the episodic leaps here and there are really brought into rosier contrast with the pace Pletnev sets. The sharp, sleek playing of the RNO under his baton does these works great justice at those tempi. This is especially true of the very end of the dances: they snuff themselves out with four (five) mighty chords spaced out like orchestral lightning strikes. It is hard to convey the sense of climax balanced so perfectly in those final chords - everything seems to fall in place, from the skittering triplets to the dreadful statements of "Dies Irae" - which have a real "snap" to them that I have a hard time finding in other recordings. Especially the final chord - I've never heard a sharper attack. For some reason the percussion seems to habitually overpower the orchestra in the finale - not so with Pletnev. It's there, but it's appropriate. Hats off to the DG recording team for balancing things so well. The fading sound of the gong gives me chills as the dances disappear like banished spirits.
The Taneyev, I should add, is a real treat. Pletnev has spoken very positively about Taneyev (contrast that with his opinion on Tchaikovsky; I recall he dismissed his symphonies in context of public demands against his artistic convictions) and certainly seems to have invested a great deal on "John of Damascus." The sonics seemed a little blurry on this, but I suppose that's just thick writing on Taneyev's part than any fault of the interpreters or the recording team. I developed a thorough enjoyment for this cantata after a few goes.
Straightforward doesn't mean lacking in nuance, and these readings are informed with a natural grace and a romantic moodiness that ebbs and flows as it should. Pletnev's 1st isn't always played with the same abandon as, say, Ashkenazy's, but its climaxes are just as powerful, and its lines emerge more clearly--and melodies and orchestration don't have much effect (on me, anyway) if they can't be heard clearly. I think Pletnev's 1st is one of several recordings at the top of the heap. It also seems better to me than Jansons', but that is probably only due to the poor quality of recording given Jansons, since otherwise he seems to capture the sense and atmosphere of the work quite well. Rachmaninov's 2nd was slow going for me for a long time, but it was Pletnev's beautiful reading that finally opened my eyes (ears) to it. The 3rd is often said to be a weaker piece than the preceding symphony, and yes, with Pletnev conducting it sounds like a slightly lesser work than the 2nd, but only slightly, and I like the fact that I don't hear Pletnev trying to beautify or to inflate the material beyond what will naturally succeed. My only disappointment with this set really is the Symphonic Dances, often referred to as Rachmaninov's 4th symphony, which seem more earthbound under Pletnev's baton. I found his Isle of the Dead effective, but less so than Previn's, for example, although it's better than the early Fritz Reiner recording. At any rate, if Pletnev could make a believer out of someone who previously felt pretty lukewarm to Rachmaninov, it's entirely possible he could do the same for others as well. Here's hoping you have a chance to enjoy this set.