Wild Soviet-era Rachmaninov -- no nuance allowed
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can imagine the elegant Rachmaninov, a patrician White Russian as stylish as a borzoi, being pretty horrified by what Svetlanov does to his First Sym. This is a wild ride, crudely played but full of energy. It's aimed at the viscera, not the head or heart. Listening to the USSR SO's timbre, with its woozy horns and trumpets and deep-dish string sound, I don't know how to react. Svetlanov kept me on the edge of my seat, but so does a big-truck jamboree. If you want to hear this symphony played with more finesse, there's Roxhdestvenky live, and studio accounts by other Russian specialists like Mariss Jansons bring out the sweep of the score with some elegance added, while a dark horse like Gianandrea Noseda -- a Genoese conducting a British orchestra -- proves unexpectedly convincing.
However, if Svetlanov is your model of a machine-age Soviet musician, here he is at full tilt. Tempos are generally fast to the point of impatience (the second movement is too breathless), and although he shortchanges atmosphere in favor of forward motion, the Larghetto works in Svetlanov's hands because he doesn't indulge its sweetness. The rollicking Finale with its pomp-and-circumstance brass fanfares isn't as coarsened as it might be, topping off the ride with its share of thrills."