Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1 & Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1 & Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1 has been unfairly dogged since its disastrous, badly rehearsed first performance in 1897, after which the 24-year-old composer withdrew the work entirely. Recent recordings, however—including this terrific live performance—have proven it to be an early masterpiece. Canadian conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra feel at home in this music, the symphony’s vivid first movement a journey of dramatic twists and turns, while its second-movement Scherzo is nervous and obsessive—a finale that blazes in full kaleidoscopic glory. This recording also houses Rachmaninoff’s last major work, the Symphonic Dances. Harmonically rich and orchestrally sumptuous, the dances are full of yearning. Nézet-Séguin brings exquisite detail to them, highlighting the dazzling, waltzing swirl of the second and the muscular heft of the cinematic third, the ancient “Dies Irae” chant driving it to its fateful, thrilling close.

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