Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No 2 in E minor, opus 27
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Live recording: Barbican Hall, London (September 2019) – 58’50
London Symphony Orchestra LSO 00851 (Distributed by PIAS) – Booklet in English, French and German
This recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 2 is the fifth with the London Symphony Orchestra. The first two under Eugene Ormandy (1966 and 1973), then comes Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s version (2015), followed by Valery Gergiev’s (2018), and now Sir Simon Rattle’s. All five recordings have their own merits, served by a vibrant, clear and articulate orchestra with a glorious sound. Picking one of them as THE reference is truly a matter of taste. This piece is treacherous on many accounts, and many a conductor – outside the above mentioned – are tempted to over-emphasize this piece’s lyricism. Here, Rattle stands half way between dryness and sentimentality, staying away from a matter-of-fact, purely descriptive rendition, and excessive pathos. This is particularly true in the "Largo-Allegro Moderato" and "Adagio" movements where not all conductors achieve this balance. The "Allegro molto's" explosion of energy and enthusiasm brings the best of the woodwind and brass sections.
The sound quality is impressive, thus giving a feeling of immediacy that adds to the qualities of this new release. Any fan of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony will most likely enjoy this recording; however, they may also want to explore other paths. There are many.