Rachmaninov / The Bells / Previn – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) 

The Bells / Previn 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This is a Minty EMI original looking pressing of the famous TAS List title. You will have a very hard time finding a nicer one than this!

Since it is such a famously well-regarded recording we decided to clean it up and gave it a spin. Side one has sweet string tone and an extended top end, and it plays very quiet.

Side two is not quite as good; it’s fuller but lacks the extension on the top that side one has in spades. It’s also quiet at mostly Mint Minus. (EMIs from this period are almost never quieter than that.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I. Allegro, Ma Non Tanto II. Lento – Adagio

Side Two

III. Presto IV. Lento Lugubre – Allegro – Andante

AMG Description

While it is true that Rachmaninov’s choral symphony The Bells was ultimately based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name, its more direct inspiration was the Konstantin Balmont translation into Russian, which takes substantial liberties with the text. He eliminated Poe’s repetitions, which are so central to his onomatopoetic devices, and he generally ignored his meter. Ironically, The Bells is often performed in English, using a translation of Balmont’s translation!

The score for The Bells requires a tenor, soprano, baritone, chorus and large orchestra. The three soloists never sing together, nor do they even appear in the same movement. The four sections of the work represent four aspects of life: birth, marriage, terror, and death.