In 1906 Rachmaninov was in his early 30s, busy as a celebrity pianist and conductor of the Bolshoi theatre but with no time for composition. He moved temporarily from Moscow to Dresden, writing several major works including his Symphony No 2, an hour-long romantic epic now among his most popular works. Mariss Jansons shapes its sumptuous melodies with restraint and detail, making the climaxes more than usually explosive. There’s great clarity in the playing, especially in the long slow movement with its huge clarinet solo. Woodwind and strings sound luxurious and expansive, brass vigorous and savage. There’s no indulgence and plenty of excitement in this live recording from 2010.
Rachmaninov: Symphony No 2 CD review – restraint and detail from Jansons
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons
Fiona Maddocks is the Observer's classical music critic. She is the author of Hildegard of Bingen, Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks and Music for Life. Follow her on Twitter: @FionaMaddocks