Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev: Orchestral works [4CD]

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A newly compiled, generous, 4CD collection of high-octane Russian orchestral masterpieces, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the firebrand musicianship of Dutch maestro Edo de Waart.

'In my profession,' remarked Edo de Waart in a 1990 interview, 'you need the affrontery to believe you have an alternative with something to say that isn't already being said. Without this sort of gall 95 per cent of us should quit.'

His intensely practical and dynamic approach was formed by experience as an orchestral oboist, taught by the principal oboe of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the days of Willem Mengelberg, nurtured by seeing Eduard van Beinum in action and further encouraged by Bernard Haitink: de Waart has the history of the Concertgebouw running through his veins. 'I think people regarded me as a second Mengelberg and I was very sure that I wasn't.' However, it was as chief of the rival Rotterdam Philharmonic that the conductor made his mark, in a series of recordings for Philips that played to his strengths in Romantic repertoire.

The conductor had earlier confessed to an initial reluctance to engage with the idiom of Rachmaninov. 'Then I conducted the [Symphonic Dances] in Rotterdam several times and suddenly I became very fond of it. I think his music grows on you as you get rid of the “honey and roses†view of him that you first learn. You must play him as strongly as the Russians used to do.' In fact, he recorded the Symphonic Dances with the London Philharmonic in 1972 and in the following year he made his debut LP in Rotterdam with a personal, LP-length selection of excerpts from Prokofiev's ballet, Romeo and Juliet. There followed, in December 1974, the Mussorgsky Pictures and then these powerfully built, authentically volatile accounts of the Rachmaninov symphonies between 1976 and 1978: recordings that made de Waart's reputation and still stand up well to the competition today."