Rachmaninov was a matchless pianist, and it was as such that he acquired his international reputation; this should not, however, blind us to his astonishing achievements as orchestrator and symphonist. His three symphonies, whose principal source of inspiration is the tendency to nostalgia of the Slavonic soul, are among his most endearing works. They also reveal an anguished, introverted personality.
The Symphony No.l in D minor, Op.13, was a resounding flop at its first performance in 1897 in St Petersburg. Cesar Cui wrote a fiercely critical review of it, and the failure left the 24-year-old Rachmaninov utterly demoralized. This four-movement symphony, which explores a vast gamut of fee-lings, is complex both in its rhythms (Cui did not like its broken rhythms, and also denounced the loo-seness of its form) and in its orchestration. The work is cyclic, based on a gruppetto motif and phrases from the mediaeval Dies irae; the latter dominates the Allegro та поп troppo, which is followed by a scherzo with an aura of fantasy, a Larghetto slow movement of fairy-tale simplicity, and a finale marked by forthright harmonies and quite forceful instrumentation.
Lepo Sumera (8 May 1950 – 2 June 2000) was an Estonian composer and teacher. Considered one of Estonia's most renowned composers along with Heino Eller, Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt, he was also his country's Minister of Culture from 1988 to 1992 during the days of the Singing Revolution…
David Hurwitz on Symphony No. 3 & Symphonic Dances
One of the great Rachmaninov recordings ever made, these accounts of the Third Symphony and Symphonic Dances by Mariss Jansons and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic recall the heady days of Mravinsky and the (then-named) Leningraders at their finest–only in top-quality sound. The whiplash strings in the second movement of the Symphonic Dances, hair-trigger discipline in the same work's outer movements, and the razor-sharp modernity that Jansons brings to the Third Symphony all combine to make this reissue irresistible. There are too many memorable moments to list here, but the central section of the Third Symphony's slow movement, full of mordant wit, and the rhythmically thrilling ending of the Symphonic Dances come immediately to mind. If you missed this issue the first time, don't let it pass by again. It belongs in every serious record collection. [5/7/2004]