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Posted October 1, 2010
Under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E minor comes alive. From the very opening motive in the basses Slatkin and the DSO demonstrate their understanding of the internal momentum of the symphony. While, overall, the performance is captivating, their interpretation of both the first and third movements in particular is stunning. The first movement is rife with internal tension that continually builds and releases at just the right moment. The phrasing in both is gorgeous, and the violins soar through the brilliantly paced crescendos. The final movement opens with excitement and energy and drives forward to the final chord and the ovation from the audience. It would have been something special to be in the audience for this performance and thank you to NAXOS for capturing it for a lifetime of repeated listening!
And, we cannot forget the CD opener: Rachmaninov's Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14. Perhaps one of the composer's most famous and most often interpreted works, Slatkin and the DSO revealed a whole new depth to this popular composition. The opening statement of the principal melody extends beautifully like one long sigh floating through air. Each soloing instrument draws out a slightly different shade of meaning, whether it's the fragility of the violin or the calmness of the clarinet. Slatkin draws forth a balance of the calm serenity in the long lines of the melody and swelling intensity in the sudden burst of movement in the developmental section. This is, perhaps, my favorite performance of the Vocalise, and one that I think every Rachmaninov enthusiast should have on their shelves!