STRAVINSKY: Petruschka; RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Mariss Jansons – RCO Live Multichannel SACD RCO 05004, 69:21 **** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Interesting pairing of works. Both by Russian composers and written when the composers were no longer living in Russia – Stravinsky was in Switzerland and Rachmaninoff in the U.S. Both are dance-like in nature but neither was composed as a ballet. The familiar story of Petruschka concerns the three main characters in a puppet show: Petrushka, the Ballerina, and The Moor. Russian folk music is a source for some of the score, and Stravinsky’s theme for Petruschka goes thru all sorts of fascinating variations, ending in a sort of ghostly apparition after the puppet is done in.
The Symphonic Dances were Rachmaninoff’s final big work. They are steeped in Late Romanticism and nostalgia for Russia, but he also decorated his long melancholy themes with a variety of sounds – sometimes chamber-like and other times with crashing symphonic tuttis. The second movement is a mysterious waltz and in the spectacular finale Rachmaninoff brings in his favorite theme – the Dies Irae death theme which he used so frequently in his works.
Both performances are spot-on and the 5.0 hi-res recording brings the listener with even mid-fi-level gear right into Amsterdam’s acoustically-fine Concertgebouw for this live concert. The orchestral soundstage seems to be wider and deeper on all the RCO SACDs than most other orchestral SACDs which I’ve auditioned.
– John Sunier