RACHMANINOFF: All-Night Vigil
ATTERBERG: Symphony No. 6, Op. 31 "Dollar Symphony." A
Värmland Rhapsody, Op. 36. Suite No. 3, Op. 19. Symphony No. 4, Op.
LUTOSLAWSKI: Symphony No. 1. Partita. Chain 2. Preludia taneczne.
About a decade ago, this site mentioned two multi-channel recordings of Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil. A Pentatone release featured the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir directed by Nikolai Kornierv (REVIEW), the other, on Naxos, with the Finnish National Opera Chorus led by Eric-Olaf Söderström (REVIEW). In those reviews I mentioned the remarkable performance by the State Russian Choir directed by Alexander Sveshnikov issued on Melodiya a half-century ago, no longer available. And it is unfortunate, as this is the only performance I've heard that has the super-power basses called for by Rachmaninoff, who was well aware that only the best of Russian basses would be able to do justice to his writing in the very low register. Although Rachmaninoff was not devoutly religious, he always was moved by Russian Orthodox Church Music, evidenced by the emotional intensity of the 15 sections of this magnificent work. This new Ondine release is admirable in every way, recorded with a splendid spacious effect, magnificently sung; it was selected by Gramophone recently as Recording of the Month. However, the fact remains that the basses surely do not have that true "Russian" sound, and their descent to that low B-flat at the end of the fifth section, unfortunately, amounts to little. Look around and see if you can find the Melodiya recording.
In 2001, the late Roger Dettmer reviewed Kurt Atterberg's Symphonies 1 and 4 for this site (REVIEW) and symphonies 7 and 8 (REVIEW) and, in 2003, symphonies 2 and 5 (REVIEW). Conductor Ari Rasilainen has now completed his fine set, available in a mid-price set on CPO. Now we will have another complete Atterberg project, this one with Neemi Järvi and the Gothenberg Symphony. It begins auspiciously with this disk continuing two symphonies, and two of Atterberg's best-known works, Värmland Rhapsody, and Suite No. 3 in the composer's arrangement for violin, viola and string orchestra (here with soloists Sara Trobäck Hesselink and Per Högberg). The elder Järvi is at his best in repertory such as this, the orchestra is first-rate, and Chandos has provided rich, if not particularly surround, audio.
Another Chandos series continues with Volume IV devoted to works of Witold Lutoslawski with Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony. As usual in this quality series, everyone involved is a virtuoso, with clarinetist Michael Collins featured in the delightful Preludia taneczne, five short pieces orchestrated by the composer from the original version for clarinet and piano. Tasmin Little is violinist in Chain 2 written in 1984-85 for Paul Sacher, and the Partita, an orchestration of the original for violin and piano. Symphony No. 1 was composed during war times but doesn't sound like it. Lutoslawski described it as "bright/cheerful." It is dedicated to conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg who conducted the premiere in 1949. The following year, the Deputy Minister of Culture banned the work suggesting that the composer should be "thrown under a tram." In spite of this, the symphony eventually gained acceptance on the concert stage. Chandos engineers have captured all of the shimmering beauty of the Polish composer's music, SACD audio is excellent if not particularly surround.
R.E.B. (April 2013)