09 Rachmaninoff YN SSergei Rachmaninoff – Symphonies 2 & 3; Isle of the Dead
Philadelphia Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Deutsche Grammophon 486 4775 (deutschegrammophon.com/en/catalogue/products/rachmaninoff-symphonies-nos-23-isle-of-the-dead-nezet-seguin-the-philadelphia-orchestra-13001)

Mention the name Sergei Rachmaninoff today and the chances are that pianist Yuja Wang and her incandescent recordings of his work come to mind. Not this time, however, for what we have here is the enigmatic and towering figure of Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the mighty Philadelphia Orchestra. The result is a double disc featuring Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 and Rachmaninoff’s first orchestral masterpiece Isle of The Dead, performed in all their solemn grandeur.

Symphony No.2 is a work of immense power and maturity. Its richness of themes makes it the most absorbing of the composer’s three symphonies. The penultimate Adagio is one of the greatest symphonic movements in Russian music. It becomes perilously sentimental in places, but its lush harmony and exquisite orchestration are so genuinely felt that you’ll forgive any excesses.

Symphony No.3 is very nearly as powerful; a great surge of orchestral energy follows the hushed Orthodox chant of the opening, and the singing interludes between the music’s recurring motifs are of Rachmaninoff’s most alluring kind.

The Isle of The Dead is an amazingly powerful piece, whose sepulchral air works its way insidiously into the memory.

Throughout the program Nézet-Séguin fires up the Philadelphia Orchestra to get into the guts of this extraordinary music. His sense of the passion and grand design of the works is non pareil. His interpretation is thrilling and he maintains a tight balance and responsive tempi throughout.

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