Review From Classics Today:

Here's a live performance of the Second Symphony that really lives up to the expectations of a live event: exciting, spontaneous, and impulsive, but also beautifully shaped and extremely well played. Leonard Slatkin's Rachmaninov cycle during his early years in St. Louis represented one of his finest efforts for Vox, so there's no question that he knows the music well. But this performance is in another league entirely. First of all, he doesn't mess with Rachmaninov's percussion parts, and believe me that's a good thing. There's no nasty timpani thwack at the end of the first movement, no extra cymbal crashes in the finale--it's just what the man wrote, and wrote so well.

This is a small detail, but Slatkin is no less adept in addressing the big picture. The first movement, urgently flowing, rises to a huge climax, probably the best since Temirkanov/EMI, assisted by some terrific brass playing. The scherzo is very quick, and hugely exciting. The return to the opening theme after the central fugato and march is unforgettable. Slatkin never lets the Adagio bog down or turn soggy; it's fresh and lyrical, while the finale is just plain thrilling, with the horns and trumpets aptly celebratory in the main theme and the strings playing their collective hearts out in the big tune at the end. The sonics are excellent, crowd noise is minimal, and the Vocalise makes a nice filler. Terrific! [1/14/2010]

--David Hurwitz

Posted on 17 Nov 2010, 7:54 PM