ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Sergei Rachmaninov - Symphony No. 2 - Leonard Slatkin


SERGEI RACHMANINOV - SYMPHONY NO. 2 - Vocalise - Leonard Slatkin (Conductor) -
Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Naxos 8.572458


I was wondering when Naxos would get around to releasing a new recording of this hyper-romantic symphonic work by Sergei Rachmaninov, and in this case, the long wait has paid off. This new recording of the Symphony No. 2 in E minor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin was captured 'live' in September of 2009 at the Detroit Orchestra Hall, in a performance that captures the essence of this great symphony exceptionally well.

This is one of the favorite 20th century symphonies, admired by experts and novices alike for its lush romanticism, dark undertones, vision and grandeur. It took the composer a long time to come to terms with writing a new symphony following the terrible reception his First Symphony had suffered, mostly due to the fact that the conductor at the première was drunk. But again, sometimes patience does pay dividends. His Second Symphony is much more assured in its long melodies and harmonic development, and holds a strong cohesive line from start to finish. And although it has a constant dark and menacing atmosphere to it, it also maintains a strong sense of purpose and determination that leads to a powerful and uplifting conclusion.

Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are in top shape in this concert recording, the cello section in particular has a very rich and lyrical sound so appropriate for this symphony. The Naxos recording is excellent, so much so that until you hear the exuberant and ardent applause at the end, you might believe that this is a studio recording. The disc also includes another Rachmaninov gem, the melodic and evocative Vocalise.

Jean-Yves Duperron