Originally published on March 26

The disc opens with Rachmaninov’s C-sharp minor Prelude as orchestrated by Stokowski, a huge workout for Jonathan Cooper’s microphones, a test easily passed in St Augustine’s (January last year, Brian Pidgeon producing), orchestral extremes paraded without inhibition, and John Wilson goes onto to explore the Second Symphony in glowing and wonderfully well-played terms, avoiding sentimentality and drooping while developing tempestuous excitement during the first movement (in which the exposition is repeated, a decision that will divide opinion, although it’s a natural return on this occasion) and, thankfully, there are no additions to Rachmaninov’s lower strings at the very end. With a dashing Scherzo (the sweeping second subject benefitting from integration, the midpoint fugato incisively rendered), an eloquently turned Adagio, spacious and shapely yet without indulgence (opening with a lovely pliable clarinet solo, the Sinfonia member not credited, a shame), closing with a particularly poignant sunset coda, and a perfectly paced Finale that has weight, emotional fervour, rhythmic buoyancy (crisp timpani detail) and a glorious apotheosis, here is a refreshing and sympathetic account that gets to the heart and soul of this Symphony without being obvious. Chandos CHSA 5309 [SACD] is released on March 31.


John Wilson & Sinfonia of London record Rachmaninov – Isle of the Dead & Symphony 3 – for Chandos.