Gliere: Symphony No 3; Rachmaninov / Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
One of the glories of Ormandy’s RCA discography... This CD is a Gem.
The main work here, recorded in 1971, is one of the glories of Ormandy’s RCA discography. Based on Russian folklore, Ilya Murometz is a sprawling, magnificent, elaborate score that showcases the virtuoso orchestra in a rich, late-Romantic style. Ormandy was almost certainly introduced to this score by Leopold Stokowski, who recorded it in 1940 during a period in which he was still conducting the orchestra in recordings, even though Ormandy had taken over as the sole music director. Ormandy first recorded the work in 1956, only a year before Columbia began recording in stereo. Both he and Stokowski took fairly radical cuts; playing the symphony complete did not become fashionable until the arrival of the CD era. Here Ormandy shows no signs of age; he luxuriates in the sounds his orchestra makes, and while the celebrated Philadelphia strings are astonishing in Gliére’s intricate figurations, it is the brass section that really carries the day. Unless almost 59 minutes of Ilya Murometz are not enough for you, this performance and recording will knock your socks off.
The brief Rachmaninoff folk-song settings are late works, written in 1926 and given their world premiere performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski; this is Ormandy’s only recording of them, sung in English. They show Rachmaninoff to be, as I have claimed before in these pages, the most underrated orchestrator of the 20th Century. In the first song Rachmaninoff makes a miniature tone poem of the simple, strophic tune sung by unison male voices; the second, written for unison women’s voices, hints at the Symphonic Dances in its woodwind figurations. The whimsical third, usually given the title “Powder’d Paint” in English, was a favorite of Rachmaninoff’s; RCA’s complete edition of his recordings includes a performance of this by a Russian folk artist with the composer improvising a piano accompaniment. This CD is a gem.
-- Richard Kaplan, Fanfare
Catalog Number: RCA38294
Composer: Reinhold Gliere, Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor: Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble: Philadelphia Orchestra, Temple University Concert Choir