|This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.|
This week’s Vinyl’s Revenge considers two orchestral works by Sergey Rachmaninov, emanating from two different periods in his composing career.
Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 was written in 1906–07. The score is dedicated to Sergei Taneyev, a Russian composer, teacher, theorist, author, and pupil of Tchaikovsky. Alongside his second and third Piano Concertos, this symphony remains one Rachmaninov's best known compositions.
Parts of the third movement were used for pop singer Eric Carmen's 1976 song, "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again", which borrowed the introduction and main melody of the third movement as the song's chorus and bridge, respectively. The melody was also used by jazz pianist Danilo Pérez as the main theme of his tune "If I Ever Forget You" on his 2008 album Across the Crystal Sea.
The premiere was conducted by the composer himself in Saint Petersburg on 8 February 1908. Today’s performance is by Lorin Maazel and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Completed in 1940, the Symphonic Dances are Rachmaninov’s last composition. The work is fully representative of the composer's later style with its curious, shifting harmonies, the almost Prokofiev-like grotesquerie of the outer movements and the focus on individual instrumental tone colors throughout (highlighted by his use of an alto saxophone in the opening dance).
The Dances are an exercise in nostalgia for the Russia he had known; the opening three-note motif, introduced quietly but soon reinforced by heavily staccato chords and responsible for much of the movement's rhythmic vitality, is reminiscent of the Queen of Shemakha's theme in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel, the only music by another composer that he had taken out of Russia with him in 1917.
They also effectively sum up his lifelong fascination with ecclesiastical chants. In the finale he quotes both the Dies Irae and the chant "Blessed be the Lord".
The version I retained – am old Melodiya recording by Evgenii Svetlaniv from the same ABC Classics reissue that contained Tchaikovsky’s Suite no. 4 shared earlier this year – has been posted on my YouTube channel for a while and (to my chagrin) misses the first few bars. I did remedy the situation by digging through my digital copies, and have rectified the situation in the Internet Archive (audio only) version.
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphony No.2 in E Minor, Op.27
Lorin Maazel, conducting
Deutsche Grammophon -- 2532 102 (ADD, Released: 1983)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
USSR Symphony Orchestra
Yevgeny Svetlanov conducting
ABC Classics AY 67032 (AAA, Recorded 1973)
Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/05RachmaninovSymphonicDancesFI