RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances; Vocalise – Minnesota Orchestra/ Eiji Oue – Reference Recordings 200-gr. audiophile vinyl RM-1504 *****:
When this recording first came out on HDCD CD in 2001, Soundstage! named it one of their best recordings of the year, and three reviewer for The Absolute Sound said it was one of the best releases of the year. It was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. Now with the mildly burgeoning vinyl market, Reference Recordings has made it available in its re-born Reference Mastercuts vinyl series, and on the latest 200 gram vinyl rather than the usual 180 grams for audiophile vinyl releases.
Rachmaninoff is probably the favorite of Late-Romantic period composers for most listeners. In addition to his piano concertos, the Symphonic Dances have been much performed on orchestra programs lately. The work is in three movements and full of opulent orchestral colors. He made use of an alto sax for the first time, and evolved the music from the simplest of materials built into powerful orchestral statements. He was in declining health when he wrote this work, and it was his last one.
The composer’s Etudes-Tableux had to be dropped from the CD release for this vinyl in order to spread out the grooves for maximum fidelity. The Vocalise was originally composed as a vocalise work by Rachmaninoff for a friend who was a coloratura soprano, but this is its strictly orchestral version. (There’s a fascinating RCA Victor CD of 13 different versions of Vocalise, which has been transcribed for many instruments and combinations of instruments over the years.) The combination of the Symphonic Dances’ spectacular orchestrations, the great playing of the Minnesota Orchestra, and the superb remastering by Reference Recordings makes this an audiophile winner all the way.
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.