Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sergei Rachmaninoff - The Bells, Symphonic Dances, The Isle of the Dead

2001; 15 tracks
Valeri Polyansky / Russian State Symphony Orchestra

These links contain some of the lesser-known distinct Russian pieces by Rachmaninoff starting with the Scherzo, Rachmaninoff's first orchestral work, and finishing with his last, the Symphonic Dances. Also included is the overwhelmingly magnificent choral symphony The Bells.

The Scherzo (1887 or 1888) was written while Rachmaninoff was still a student. It is his first surviving orchestral work which has a rather light-hearted tone and not yet the typical Rachmaninoff sound. The next pieces for orchestra, Prince Rostislav (1891) and The Rock (1893) begin to show the composer's skill for writing program music and incorporating tone painting which would culminate in The Isle of the Dead (1990).

He wrote his most famous symphonic poem, The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29, in 1907 when living in Dresden. It is the music is Rachmaninoff all over - mysterious, beautifully and most effectively orchestrated, melodious and sombre. It's just all beautiful - nothing more amazing than another. I don't know how else to describe it.

Part 1
Part 2


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