Evgeny Svetlanov conducts Rachmaninov's Symphony No.1

Legendary performances by Svetlanov — State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

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State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

Program notes

The premiere of Rachmaninov’s First Symphony was an utter disaster, but it is now considered one of his most powerful and expressive symphonic works. Experience the symphony in the hands of the famed interpreter of the Russian repertoire, conductor Evgeny Svetlanov.

A virtuosic young pianist whose early compositions were praised by Tchaikovsky and presented at the Bolshoi, Rachmaninov decided to tackle the symphonic genre at an early age. After spending most of 1895 composing the work with which he believed to have “opened up entirely new paths”, he made preparations for its premiere. Yet Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov were critical of the symphony, an inauspicious beginning that seems to have been a taste of the disaster to follow: with inadequate rehearsal time and a drunken and uninspiring Glazunov at the podium, the premiere performance received scathing reviews and led Rachmaninov to have a psychological breakdown and abandon composition for years. The score went missing when the composer emigrated in 1918, but was unearthed and reconstructed in the 1940s, revealing what many now view as the boldest and most fascinating Russian symphonic work in the decade following Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony.

The Evgeny Svetlanov Foundation has kindly provided this program to us as part of its celebrations of the maestro's 90th birthday.

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