Rachmaninoff / Symphonic Dances / Johanos – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Symphonic Dances / Johanos


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

This famously good sounding Vox pressing has been remastered a number of times, but you can be sure that the Hot Stamper we are offering here will beat any of those modern pressings by a wide margin in any area that has to do with sound (surfaces are another matter). 

Both sides are Super Hot, with side two being ever so slightly better. The sound is dynamic, lively and BIG. The best of the great Golden Age recordings will be slightly more transparent, but other than that this pressing is doing what they do — bringing the power and vibrant colors of the symphony into your listening room!

Side One

A++ with especially big bass! If you own any of the reissues the punchy drums found on this side will show you what’s missing from your remastered record.

Side Two

A bit more top on this side helps with the clarity and overall openness of the sound.

Heavy Vinyl

An interesting quote from Chad’s site:

“…Analogue Productions’ 45rpm remastering improves upon the venerable Athena LP release from the late 80s, with better dynamics and a fuller ‘middle’ to the orchestral sonority.” – Andrew Quint, The Absolute Sound, October 2010

For some reason Andrew uses the word “venerable” when the more accurate term is “execrable,” which seems like a mistake that would not be that easy to make. Athena was a godawful audiophile label that lasted all of five records, only one of which was any good, and it’s not this one. (It was in fact the Debussy piano recording with Moravec, mastered by Robert Ludwig himself.)

As usual, we guarantee this copy will blow the doors off any Heavy Vinyl or audiophile pressing of the album or your money back.


Side One

Symphonic Dances for Orchestra, Opus 45

Side Two

Symphonic Dances for Orchestra, Opus 45 (conclusion) 
“Vocalise” for Orchestra, Opus 34, No. 14

Wikipedia’s Entry

The Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, is an orchestral suite in three movements. Completed in 1940, it is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s last composition. The work summarizes Rachmaninoff’s compositional output.

The work is fully representative of the composer’s late style with its curious, shifting harmonies, the almost Prokofiev-like grotesquerie of the outer movements and the focus on individual instrumental tone colors throughout (highlighted by his use of an alto saxophone in the opening dance).[1] The opening three-note motif, introduced quietly but soon reinforced by heavily staccato chords and responsible for much of the movement’s rhythmic vitality, is reminiscent of the Queen of Shemakha’s theme in Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel,[2] the only music by another composer he had taken out of Russia with him in 1917. The Dances allowed him to indulge in a nostalgia for the Russia he had known, much as he had done in the Third Symphony,[3] as well as to effectively sum up his lifelong fascination with ecclesiastical chants. He quotes in the first dance the opening theme of his First Symphony, itself derived from motifs characteristic of Russian church music.

The Dances combine energetic rhythmic sections, reminiscent of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with some of the composer’s lushest melodies. The rhythmic vivacity, a characteristic of Rachmaninoff’s late style, may have been further heightened here for two reasons. First, he had been encouraged by the success of his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini as a ballet in 1939 and wanted to write something with which to follow it up.[4] Second, he may have included material intended for a ballet titled The Scythians, begun in 1914-15 but abandoned before he left Russia.[2] While no manuscript for the ballet currently survives, this does not make his quoting the work inconceivable, given the vastness of Rachmaninoff’s memory. He could remember and play back accurately pieces he had heard years earlier, even those he had heard only once.[5]

The work is remarkable for its use of the alto saxophone as a solo instrument for the only time in a Rachmaninoff composition. Rachmaninoff was apparently advised as to its use by the American orchestrator and composer Robert Russell Bennett. The composition includes several quotations from Rachmaninoff’s other works, and can be regarded as a summing-up of his entire career as a composer. The first dance ends with a quotation from his unfortunate First Symphony (1897). The ghostly second dance (called “dusk” in some sketches) symbolises the years from the turn of the century up to the Russian Revolution. The final dance is a kind of struggle between the Dies Irae theme, representing Death, and a quotation from the ninth movement of his All-night Vigil (1915), representing Resurrection (the lyrics of the All-night Vigil’s ninth movement in fact narrate mourners’ discovery of Christ’s empty grave and the Risen Lord). The Resurrection theme proves victorious in the end (he wrote the word Hallelujah at this place in the score).