Performed by Orchestra Wellington conducted by Marc Taddei.
Following the critical dismissal of his First Symphony, Rachmaninov fell into a period of creative paralysis and deep depression that lasted almost three years. He sought treatment from hypnotist Nikolai Dahl who managed to get the composer writing again, and this led to a string of successes for Rachmaninov, including his Second Piano Concerto. By 1906 Rachmaninov was ready to compose another symphony. The second symphony is a large, brooding, romantic work, with a wealth of melodies. The orchestration is lush and impassioned, often with dense counterpoint in the inner parts.
All four movements are linked by a single motivic idea, first heard in the lower strings at the opening of the first movement. There’s a galloping Scherzo movement, followed by a sublime Adagio which contains some of Rachmaninov’s most beautiful music. The meltingly lovely clarinet solo seems to flow endlessly, and its famous melody is presented in different guises, providing solo moments for the horn and woodwinds.
The finale begins explosively, layering a wealth of melodies over each other. It’s full of energy and rhythmic drive, and is capped by a passage that simulates the magnificent clamour of bells.
Recorded on 5 December 2020 in Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert
Producer: David McCaw
Engineer: Darryl Stack