OP0652. MONNA VANNA, recorded 1991, w. Igor Buketoff Cond. Iceland Symphony Orch. & Icelandic Opera Chorus; Sherrill Milnes, Seth McCoy, Blythe Walker, Nickolas Karousatos & Jon Thorsteinsson; gor Buketoff Cond. Iceland Symphony Orch. & William Black (Pf.): Piano Concerto #4 in G (1927 version) (both Rachmaninoff). (Austria ) Chandos 8987, Slipcase Edition w. Elaborate 47pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 095115898727
“The operatic world lost a lush, brooding score, but probably not a masterpiece, when Rachmaninoff abandoned his projected opera MONNA VANNA after completing a piano- vocal score of one act in 1908. The fragment, with orchestration provided by Igor Buketoff, was given its world premiere by the orchestra most closely associated with Rachmaninoff during his American years, the Phildelphia Orchestra. Mr. Buketoff conducted.
MONNA VANNA was to have been a three-act work, based on a play by Maurice Maeterlinck. It takes place in besieged 15th-century Pisa. The first act suggests that Rachmaninoff had a deep feeling for the mood, for the atmosphere of the play, but not for the interpersonal drama of it. As a performer, Rachmaninoff is supposed to have believed that an interpreter should find one central moment or event in a musical work, on which all other details turn - but as a composer he seems not to have worked in the same way. With Rachmaninoff, there may be a forte cry or brief superficial response, but the kind of music hardly changes.
That is not to say that there are not striking passages. The offstage choral cries for Vanna had an extraordinary, other-worldly quality, as though heard in a dream. And the climaxes of Guido's outbursts are stirring. But Rachmaninoff played against his own strengths by setting the whole act in a lyrical recitative, instead of isolating the mood of an instant and distilling it through the extended lyrical reflection of an aria.
Mr. Buketoff has orchestrated the score spaciously. His scoring strikes the ear as conservative but skillful; there was no flash of startling color, no inventive combination of sonorities that leapt out to make one say ‘how brilliant’, but nothing either to inspire doubt in the conductor's confident command of the composer's idiom. All seemed apt and effective…his labor of love in completing the score has been worthily heard.
Mr. Milnes’ skills are great and the combination has made him the leading operatic baritone of his day. He performed nobly here. Rachmaninoff asked Guido for repeated F-sharps and G's above the staff; Mr. Milnes delivered them excitingly. The opera act was sensibly done in a clear English translation."
- Will Crutchfield. THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Aug., 1984