- Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27
- Vocalise, transcription for orchestra, Op. 34/14
Rachmaninov's "First Symphony," for any number of reasons, received one of the most venomous, disdainful premieres in music history. Everything from the score itself to unprepared musicians to a supposedly drunken conductor (Glazunov) has been blamed for its icy reception. No matter the cause, the result was a devastated composer who was not to return to the form for more than a decade, and only then after the assistance of a hypnotherapist. The "Second Symphony," heard here on this Naxos disc, was a complete rebirth for Rachmaninov and was received with great acclaim. Its American premiere was conducted by Modeste Altschuler, the great uncle of conductor Leonard Slatkin. How appropriate it is, then, that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra should celebrate its own new beginnings with Slatkin, who was principal conductor during the 2008-2009 season. The revitalized sound Slatkin draws from the DSO is simply superb, reaffirming its position as one of the country's preeminent orchestras. The strings produce a rich, velvety texture with powerful, penetrating violins all the way down to marvelously articulated, robust basses. The rest of the orchestra sounds just as good, in particular the vigorous brass section. Slatkin's interpretation of this great symphony is sweeping in its scope while obviously paying meticulous attention to every detail and nuance written in the score. From the breathtakingly romantic third movement to the fiery, agitated Scherzo, the DSO and Slatkin offer listeners a first-rate recording and a deeply satisfying musical experience.