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The Third Symphony of Rachmaninov may not be so well known as the composer's Second but, to use a Radio Review phrase, "if you liked that, you'll like this". Indeed, the present symphony is very approachable, well representative of 20th Century Romantic orchestral music although perhaps a shade more reserved in terms of the 'no-holds-barred romance' than the earlier work. Attached below this review is a photo of the back cover essay from the CBS Classics Lp reissue of this recording, a model of clear, straightforward yet authoritative writing by Eugene Ormandy, our conductor here who mentions his and the Philadelphia Orchestra's relationship with the composer, the work itself and their recording of it. The orchestra actually recorded the work three times, the first with the composer himself conducting, the second and third with Ormandy, Stokowski having given the world première in concert in 1936. I find the transfer here preferable to the very occasionally glassy-sounding CBS Maestro CD issue - good though that is - and also to the arguably over polished/smooth (but still pleasing in many ways) Sony Essential Classics CD. HDTT's release is probably the most natural sounding offering of this recording so far and of course allows listeners the opportunity to hear this 1968 recording as it would have been heard by the record-buying public at the time of release, given ownership of state of the art equipment. The performance itself is second to none. Lyricism and virtuosity in spades. Furthermore, we are additionally treated to (Rachmaninov's own orchestration of) the well-known Vocalise as an encore. In all, thoroughly recommendable.
With Rachmaninoff himself having recorded this symphony in Philadelphia in 1939, the orchestra rightfully claims a performing tradition of his music. This December 1967 recording is a valuable part of that tradition. Were any members of the orchestra in 1967 also there in 1939, or when Leopold Stokowski conducted the premiere in 1938? Ormandy worked with Rachmaninov, and his views on this symphony are therefore worth hearing. It is one of those classic recordings that must always be available. As it is, it is a very fine performance. Ormandy was born to conduct Russian romantic music, and the Philadelphia Orchestra combines precision with its usual suave sound. The recording quality is rather better than the Columbia engineers often achieved in Philadelphia. The lack of a suitable recording venue in Philadelphia was a difficulty, but Bud Graham and John Guerriere did quite well with the acoustic of the Philadelphia Town Hall. There are some oddities of balance. The celesta overpowers the whole orchestra briefly in the second movement. The orchestra is also recorded a little more closely than on some other recordings of the work of similar vintage. However, the depth of tone of the orchestra is captured well. The HDTT transfer has a bit more richness in the bass than the 1989 CBS Maestro transfer.
Absolutely wonderful! One of the very best performances/remasterings Bob has done.
Title: Rachmaninoff Symphony No.3 in A minor op.44
Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
Artist(s): Conductor – Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra – The Philadelphia Orchestra
Recording Info: Recorded by Columbia released 1968
Producer – Thomas Frost
Engineer – Edward T. Graham, John Guerriere
Transferred from a 15ips 2-track tape
Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44 38:25
1 Lento - Allegro moderato 12:49
2 Adagio ma non troppo 12:35
3 Allegro 13:01
4 Vocalise in E Minor 6:22