This month Signum Classics issue the first of a new series of Rachmaninov symphonies, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra with their Conductor Laureate, Vladimir Ashkenazy, recorded live in concert. Volume 1 contains a performance of Sergey Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 recorded last November in the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of the few artists to combine a highly successful career as both a pianist and a conductor. Although nowadays he is mostly to be seen in the conducting role, he first came to prominence in the mid 1950s as a prize-winning young pianist. He has a long history of performing and recording works by Rachmaninov. He has recorded the the complete works for piano by Rachmaninov and two two cycles of the Rachmaninov Piano concerti; one with with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra and later with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. This is not Ashkenazy’s first recording of this symphony cycle. In the early 1980s he produced a highly acclaimed set of all three Rachmaninov symphonies as conductor of the Royal Concertgeouw Orchestra.
Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 was composed when he was just 22 years old. Whilst one cannot claim that this work is on a par with his two later symphonies , in the hands of an experienced performer of Rachmaninov, like Ashkenazy, this piece, that was once feared lost, comes across as a strong, highly individual, and self-assured work. The product of a young talent overflowing with ideas rather a composer who became paralyzed by failure.
Congratulations to the Philharmonia Orchestra, their conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and staff for producing a vivid record of this concert.