- Russia (Rus'), Second Overture on Russian Themes, for orchestra (2nd version)
Rachmaninov's "Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44" premiered in Philadelphia under Leopold Stokowski, took many years to click with audiences, but this profoundly Russian reading by Valery Gergiev, recorded live with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2014, may put the capstone on a long reevaluation. The work is essentially conventional in form, with a sonata-form opening movement, a middle movement that doubles as slow movement and scherzo, and a dance-flavored finale. It's not really in the Romantic vein of Rachmaninov's earlier music, though, with an economical mode of expression and the Russian quality deployed in the service of a reflective mood. It's interesting to compare this recording with Gergiev's live outings at the head of the Mariinsky Orchestra in St. Petersburg, for both have their advantages. Here, Gergiev gets great clarity and elegance out of the LSO's low brasses and winds, and the engineers from the orchestra's own LSO Live label are with him every step of the way. He catches the restrained quality of the music. A bonus is the presence of Balakirev's rarely played "Russia," a collection of strung-together Russian tunes in which Gergiev delivers a totally infectious quality. It's a fine way of bringing down the curtain on a recommended Rachmaninov recording.