Thursday, 7 June 2018

Valery Gergiev in Rachmaninov

These days we are not blessed with many top conductors. The towering figures of the past recede year by year. Of the present crop, when it comes to 19th and 20th century orchestral music, we have to face the fact there are no conductors of Bruckner, Wagner or Beethoven who can compare with the likes of Furtw√§ngler or Klemperer. We do, however, have three top Russians: Valery Gergiev, Vasily Petrenko, and Kirill Petrenko. All three are thoroughly worthy of note, especially in the Russian repertoire. I have long had a great deal of respect for Vasily for his recordings of Elgar and Shostakovich, in particular. Kirill is less easy to sum up, since he is rarely heard in any recordings, but I did hear him conducting Elgar's second symphony — a difficult work to bring off — and he did bring it off spectacularly well (as did Vasily).

I have just been listening to Valery Gergiev conducting the Kirov Orchestra in Rachmaninov's second symphony, a key work in my personal pantheon. The recording dates from 1993 and features a Russian orchestra playing its heart out in an important work in the Russian orchestral repertoire. I have seven different recordings of this work, but this Gergiev performance is by far the best. I have many recordings with Gergiev conducting, mainly in Russian or French repertoire. He almost never disappoints.

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