Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3, Isle of the Dead, Vocalise

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3, Isle of the Dead, Vocalise

By the time Rachmaninoff composed his Symphony No. 3 in the mid-1930s, his luxurious melodic-harmonic idiom had become more refined and less overtly Tchaikovskian in its emotional impact. One immediately senses the sea change in John Wilson’s tautly argued yet impassioned reading with the Sinfonia of London at the top of their game. If the conducting likes of Eugene Ormandy, Lorin Maazel, and André Previn tend to view this glorious music as the last gasp of the Romantic symphonic tradition, Wilson relishes rather its expressive economy and orchestral ingenuity, pointing up its impact on the then fast-emerging Hollywood film music tradition. This spills over into a reading of The Isle of the Dead (a deeply unsettling symphonic poem about man’s last resting place) that portrays the coffin’s remorseless aquatic journey with graphic precision. The exquisite Vocalise, taken at a gently flowing tempo, provides the musical icing on the cake.

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