Bill Dodd’s Russian DSD Discoveries Sep 21 by Bill Dodd in Dodd's DSD Discoveries

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Three of my favorite composers are Russian, and they were contemporaries. Sergei Rachmaninov, Sergei Prokofiev, and Igor Stravinsky all left Russia in their younger years, with only Prokofiev returning. Both Rachmaninov and Stravinsky resided in the USA for a long time and eventually became US citizens. They lived in Los Angeles at the same time, but didn’t care much for each other’s music.

Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was very successful as a conductor. Even before leaving Russia he was offered and he declined positions in Boston and elsewhere. He primarily made his living as a much sought-after concert pianist.

Stravinsky and Prokofiev were thought of as being quite modern, while Rachmaninov’s compositions were thought to be very romantic. But I hear far more that is forward looking in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony than in Prokofiev’s “Classical” First Symphony, or in Stravinsky’s rarely performed Symphony In E Flat Major –which he wrote while being an apprentice to Rimsky in 1907.

In addition, Rachmaninov’s final work, Symphonic Dances (a Fourth Symphony in all but name), seems less dated now than some of Stravinsky’s pieces from his Neo-Classic period. That of course is just my opinion. By the way, Rachmaninov quotes from the plainchant Dies Irae in almost all of his works, and it really stands out in the final “dance” of the Symphonic Dances.

Here’s Rachmaninov’s first Symphony done with great zeal by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra:

LSO Rachmaninov 1 NativeDSD
LSO0784

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1
Balakirev: Tamara

London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev, conductor

 

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

My favorite recording of the Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 is this superlative performance by Ivan Fischer and the BFO:

Rachmaninov 2 Ivan Fischer NativeDSD
21604

Rachmaninov: 
Symphony No. 2
Vocalise No. 14


Budapest Festival Orchestra

Iván Fischer, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

Don’t forget Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony with Gergiev and the LSO:

LSO Rachmaninov 3 NativeDSD
LSO0779

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 3
Balakirex: Russia

London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

 

Valery Gergiev also conducts the Symphonic Dances (Premiered 1941 in Philadelphia) and Stravinsky’s jazz influenced Symphony In Three Movements (premiered 1946 in New York):

LSO Rachmaninov NativeDSD
LSO0688

Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements


London Symphony Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

And when you explore Rachmaninov, don’t forget the solo works for piano, the piano concertos, and (one of my absolute favorites) the wonderful tone poem, Isle of the Dead.

Dejan Lazic’s rendition of Rachminov’s Piano Concerto #2 with Kirill Petrenko, conducting is beautifully played and recorded. And the Moments Musicaux is worth the price of admission alone:

Dejan Lazic Rachmaninov NativeDSD
26308

Rachmaninov:
Piano Concerto No. 2
Moments Musicaux

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Kirill Petrenko, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

I’m sure I don’t need to say too much about Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). It’s said that he “…finally became Stravinsky with Petrushka, ” and his successes continued with The Firebird, and of course The Rite of Spring. All are well represented. His own stereo recording of The Rite is still considered among the very best. For modern recordings I think it’s difficult to find a better performed or better recorded one than this with Ivan Fischer and the BFO– also including a wonderful Firebird Suite:

Stravinxky Ivan Fischer NativeDSD
32112

Stravinsky:
Rite of Spring
Firebird Suite
Scherzo, Tango

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

Speaking of The Firebird, Rosanne Philippens (violin) and Julien Quentin (piano) are fantastic with a special arrangement of two movements from The Firebird in this set. As an exception of the theme from Russian composers, I highly recommend the music by Polish composer Szymanowski:

Rosanne Philippens Myth NativeDSD
36715

Rosanne Philippens plays Szymanowski


Julien Quentin,
piano
NJO

Xian Zhang, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

And don’t forget Gergiev’s recording of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements coupled with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances—see above.

Of These three Russians, no one is more represented here than Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Symphonies, ballets, concertos, sonatas, and even film music! So much to explore! He had the misfortune to die on the same day as Josef Stalin, so the world tended not to notice. But Prokofiev is probably the most performed composer of 20th Century music.

Let’s start with the Symphonies– James Gaffigan and The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra are wonderful—and wonderfully recorded in these symphony recordings:

Prokofiev 1&5 NativeDSD
CC72732

Prokofiev:
Symphonies No. 1 & 5


Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

James Gaffigan, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

Prokofiev 3&4 NativeDSD
CC72584

Prokofiev:
Symphonies No. 3 & 4


Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

James Gaffigan, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

Prokofiev 6&7 NativeDSD
CC72714

Prokofiev:
Symphonies No. 6 & 7


Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

James Gaffigan, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

And nobody should be without Romeo and Juliet! Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic are beautifully captured in this excellent release:

Prokofiev Oslo Philharmonic NativeDSD
LWC1105

Prokofiev:
Romeo & Juliet


Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Vasily Petrenko, conductor

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

 

 

I haven’t even touched on the piano or violin concertos or sonatas! But I would like to leave you with a very strong recommendation for a wonderful album by cellist Johannes Moser with pianist Andrei Korobeinikov. It includes Sonatas for Cello and Piano by Prokofiev and Rachmaninov, plus the adagio from “Cinderella” arranged by Prokofiev. Wonderful– All three of my favorite three Russians in one album!

Prokofiev Rachmaninov NativeDSD
PTC5186594

Rachmaninov / Prokofiev:
Works for Cello and Piano


Johannes Moser,
cello
Andrei Korobeinikov,
piano

 

DSD 64fs
Stereo, Multi

Bill Dodd

Bill Dodd

Bill Dodd is a retired radio broadcaster who was born and raised near San Francisco, but now lives in the USA’s Pacific Northwest. “Discovery is important to me. Along with finding an exciting new viewpoint of a favorite work, I really love discovering music and composers I haven’t heard before, or haven’t been able to get close to in the past.”

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