Rach­mani­nov • Si­belius

BBC Music Magazine - - Orchestral -

Rach­mani­nov: Pi­ano Con­certo No. 3 in D mi­nor;

Si­belius: Sym­phony No. 2 in D Ger­ard Ai­montche (pi­ano); Chineke! Orches­tra/rod­er­ick Cox

Signum Classics SIGCD 548

84:42 mins (2 discs)

Two years af­ter its foun­da­tion specif­i­cally to raise the profile of young Black and Mi­nor­ity Eth­nic clas­si­cal mu­si­cians in the UK and Europe, the Chineke! Orches­tra is heard here at full strength in a live con­cert given on 16 July 2017 in the Royal Fes­ti­val ★all. Alas, the venue is the main caveat. Even af­ter its acous­tic make-over a decade ago, it re­mains a dry, un­help­ful am­bi­ence for record­ing pur­poses; starv­ing in­stru­ments – par­tic­u­larly the up­per strings – of res­o­nance and, at times, mak­ing the orches­tra sound more light­weight than its 70-odd line-up should. Mat­ters are not helped by the ‘plac­ing’ of the pi­ano – it­self none-too flat­ter­ingly recorded – far for­ward of the orches­tra, so that some of Rach­mani­nov’s or­ches­tral de­tail is cov­ered.

That said, the no­to­ri­ous dif­fi­cul­ties of the solo writ­ing seem to present no prob­lem to the ag­ile and sonorous pi­anism of the young Rus­sian vir­tu­oso Ger­ard Ai­montche, while the Amer­i­can con­duc­tor Rod­er­ick Cox un­folds Rach­mani­nov’s leisurely and dis­cur­sive con­ti­nu­ities with a firm hand. Cox also of­fers a forth­right per­for­mance of the Si­belius. ★is must be among the most elec­tri­fy­ing ac­counts in the cat­a­logue of its strange dra­matic scene of a se­cond move­ment, de­spite the deadening ef­fect of the Royal Fes­ti­val ★all acous­tic in Si­belius’s many abrupt si­lences. Of course, these read­ings are up against some leg­endary pre­vi­ous record­ings, and the oc­ca­sional rough­ness in the vi­o­lins sug­gests that Chineke! was still find­ing its way at the time. But this dou­ble set is an en­cour­ag­ing marker of an orches­tra on the rise. Bayan North­cott



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