Sunday, March 25, 2001

Rich melodies flavor CSO's Rachmaninoff

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 is the best-loved of his three symphonies, with themes as romantic as anything written for Hollywood.

        In his 24th recording with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducts Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, plus the short piece Vocalise, in its orchestral transcription.

   The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Conductor
   Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2; Vocalise
   Telarc; 3 stars
   CD 15.99; no cassette
        The performance of Symphony No. 2 captures the sweep of the full-blown melodies and lush textures that define Rachmaninoff's music. The Telarc sound, a blend of high-tech know-how and Music Hall's excellent acoustics, is exquisite. But behind the opulent sound, the orchestra sounds a bit dull, and the balance sometimes obscures detail.

        Mr. Lopez-Cobos leads in a heavy, romantic style with little subtlety. The scherzo, for instance, might have been lighter, with the kind of pointed sound that can draw you in.

        Still, the melodies are wonderful and there are memorable contributions from individual musicians — such as the English horn solo in first movement played by Robert Walters (who is on leave from the CSO while he tries out for a job with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra).

        The third movement, which has the unforgettable melody used in the pop hit, “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again,” has a beautifully phrased solo by principal clarinetist Richard Hawley.

        Filling out the disc is Vocalise, a famous miniature that exists in many transcriptions. The original is a wordless song, one of Fourteen Songs, Op. 34, from 1912.


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