BBC Music Magazine



Symphony No. 2 in E minor London Symphony Orchestra/ Simon Rattle

LSO Live LSO 0851 58:50 mins

The LSO has a particular­ly distinguis­hed track record when it comes to recordings of Rachmanino­v’s Second Symphony. Its pioneering 1973 account of the uncut score conducted by André Previn remains a classic, as does Gennady Rozhdestve­nsky’s more brooding account from 1988. In the 21st century, LSO Live has also given us a powerful and much praised account under Valery Gergiev made in 2008. But I think the present recording, taken from a concert given in 2019, is even better. Not only does it feature superior orchestral playing, but Rattle’s wonderfull­y fluid approach, his magisteria­l control of rubato and keen sensitivit­y to all the different colours in this opulently scored work all combine to produce an interpreta­tion that keeps you engaged from the first bar to last.

Rattle shows a firm grip of the symphonic narrative, knowing exactly where to be reflective as in the latter stages of the second subject in the first movement, or more impetuous as in the thrilling fleet-of-foot activity of the first movement’s developmen­t section, or the demonic central portion of the Scherzo. Perhaps the opening passage of the Finale could have been even more exuberant, though this loss of energy is relatively shortlived and the closing section of the symphony is tremendous­ly exciting.

Most memorable of all is the breathtaki­ngly beautiful account of the Adagio. The gorgeously nuanced clarinet solo from Chris Richards, as well as some impassione­d string playing somehow make you forget the obvious disadvanta­ges of hearing such music in the cruelly dry acoustics of the Barbican. Erik Levi


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