Evgeny Svetlanov conducts Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2

Legendary performances by Svetlanov — State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

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State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

Program notes

Composed ten years after the First, Rachmaninov’s hauntingly beautiful Second Symphony was written with trepidation after the abject failure of its forerunner, yet its premiere in St. Petersburg with the composer at the baton proved to be an enormous success. Here the legendary Russian maestro Evgeny Svetlanov leads a vivid performance of the symphony, captured here on archival footage.

Hope, romance, and redemption are the hallmarks of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27. It shows evidence of his recent move with his family to Dresden: tastes of Richard Strauss (whose seminal opera Salome had recently premiered there) mix with echoes of Wagner in the arresting melodies and brilliant orchestration. What would become his signature invocation of the Dies irae chant comes in the Scherzo movement, juxtaposed with a thrilling fugal passage. The symphony’s overall ambitious scope–four movements that, when performed uncut, run an hour long–hints at Rachmaninov’s growing confidence in his skill as a composer and symphonist, an incredible return after nearly having forsworn composition completely just a decade earlier!

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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