Composers: Rachmaninov
Compositions: The Bells, Symphonic Dances
Performers: Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Mariss Jansons
Catalogue Number: BR Klassik 900154

Rachmaninov’s setting of Konstantin Balmont’s translation of Poe’s poem, The Bells has long been a favourite of performers and audiences alike, and it is easy to understand why. Journeying from the sleigh bells of youth, to wedding bells, to alarm bells and finally to the death knell, this work creatively rings life’s changes on a larger-than-life musical canvas. Jansons’ direction is incisive and insightful; and soloists, chorus and orchestra all respond in like manner.

Tenor Oleg Dolgov brings a passionate lyricism to the first movement while soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya effectively summons up the sensuality of the ensuing movement and baritone Alexey Markov is aptly solemn in the finale. The chorus is impressively hefty when required and the orchestra wonderfully multi-hued.

Jansons also gives the Symphonic Dances, Rachmaninov’s last work, a wonderfully vivid performance. Underpinned by its pulsing rhythms, the opening movement comes across as lithe and athletic. He treats the big cadences with boldness, giving them an admirable buoyancy. The central episode has tenderness and romantic allure in abundance. Slightly surreal in feeling, the central waltz movement is beautifully shaped and each of the instrumental cameos is delicately coloured. The energy and commitment of all concerned continues right to the crashing finish of the finale.