I’ve always marvelled how a man as young as Rachmaninov could have composed something as grim as his First Symphony. Even the opening bar is a baleful snarl! No one knows the trouble he’s seen. Lacking the heart-warming radiance and uniquely Slavic yearning of the Second and the curvaceous Hollywood glamour of the Third (Korngold on the Steppes?), no wonder it’s never really become a repertoire staple. As far as I can tell, the Sydney Symphony has performed it only once in decades.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

This CD showcases Rachmaninov’s orchestral “book-ends” in his first and last major works. I read one dyspeptic review which accused Nézet-Séguin of laziness, implying that (I paraphrase) he was merely cruising along, cushioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra’s unique DNA, created by Stokowski and Ormandy. Not to my ears! In fact, the shadow of Eugene Ormandy seems to hover over Rachmaninov orchestral recordings in much the same way as Jacqueline du Pre’s does over the Elgar Cello Concerto. I much prefer a passage from another review, which declared, “…but there’s a new kid (relatively speaking) in the...