C1306. SERGEI RACHMANINOFF Cond. Philadelphia Orch.: Isle of the Dead - recorded 20 April, 1929; Symphony #3 in a, recorded 11 Dec., 1939 (both Cond. by the Composer). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-235). Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“The ISLE OF THE DEAD receives a performance of extraordinary emotional intensity and power. Over its 18-minute-long span there is not a moment where tension flags or the doom-laden atmosphere is dissipated. Rachmaninov’s mastery as a conductor is shown in his ability to get sharp, dramatic attack from his players, and to induce pungent yet plastic rhythms. There are tiny and subtle inflections in the phrasing, so naturally brought off as to imbue the performance with a kind of absolute truth.”
- Alan Sanders, CLASSICAL RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Winter, 2010
“Here you will hear ardor, fire, passion, and ecstacy. It abounds in rubato and nuances. No phrase is simply played straight. Everything is punctuated. It holds back; it springs forward. This is real musical phrasing. It is quite unlike the straight-ahead, uninflected approach we are used to. It reminds us that the romantic era is far in the past. We don’t do this kind of thing any more. I doubt whether we can. It is utterly unnatural to us. But you have to hear it to understand what this music meant to its composer.
We live in a strange time. Musicians go out of their way to make baroque and classical music sound the way they think it must have sounded to its composers. But there is no respect for romanticism and the way that sounded to the composers. To hear that you must listen to the romantics themselves—and, like Rachmaninoff, a few lived long enough to make recordings. He was a giant of a pianist and one of the last great romantic composers. I urge you to hear how he played his own music.”
- Donald R. Vroon, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2012
“One of the last great Romantic composer-performers, Sergey Rachmaninov was also an experienced conductor, although he left only the three recordings to be found on this album. The ISLE OF THE DEAD charts a symphonic journey from life to death relieved by a feeling of sweet nostalgia. Superbly orchestrated and with plenty of emotional fire and lyrical beauty, his Third Symphony was composed for The Philadelphia Orchestra which responds brilliantly to the composer’s personal emphases and impulses.”
- Ned Ludd