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On CD: Slatkin's first Naxos recording with Detroit

Web-only review:

In his new home, Slatkin moves to the familiar
by Mark J. Estren

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2; Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14. Leonard Slatkin; Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Naxos. $8.99.

Leonard Slatkin was known in his 12 years at the National Symphony Orchestra for championing less-played 20th-century American music. But on his first EDITED TO ADD: Naxos recording as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, he conducts works so tried-and-true that they could easily become tiresome. They don’t, thanks to the skill of the Detroit musicians, but these are still performances that have more visceral appeal than staying power.
(read more after the jump)

The quality of the string and brass playing in Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 is the CD’s strongest point. The orchestra stays together at all speeds and in all rhythms: In this live recording, there is none of the under-rehearsal that often marred Slatkin’s NSO performances. The Detroit Symphony’s polished sound is not ideal for Russian romanticism, but its evenness is attractive, especially at Slatkin’s often-speedy tempos. Some fast sections seem almost perfunctory, as it Slatkin wants to get through them to wallow in the symphony’s broadly expansive themes. This is most noticeable in the scherzo, whose opening is so heady as to sound breathless. But it is also apparent in the sprawling first movement, whose beginning is more menacing than melancholy and whose second theme is slowed to the point of ponderousness. (And Slatkin omits the first-movement exposition repeat.)

Yet this reading as a whole has considerable dramatic power, with an effective first-movement climax and some beautiful clarinet playing in the slow movement. Its perfunctory conclusion, though, is a disappointment, as if the finale builds to nothing.

The CD also includes Rachmaninoff’s famous Vocalise, which is played with beauty but a slight overdose of swooning expressiveness.

--Mark J. Estren

By Anne Midgette  |  March 24, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  CD reviews  
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Hey Washington Post - way to go posting reviews of CDs so we can know which are good and no good. with live performance reviews we usually don't get to go since the review is after the performance! Now for you guys to make money (which I think you need to do) why not have a link to where I can buy the CD (not joking).

Posted by: musiklovr | March 24, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

What an incredibly pointless use of the Motown Symphony's time to record yet another Rach 2. I like their recordings of less omnipresent repertoire under Paray and Jarvi, but even though I am a native Detroiter and thus a DSO partisan, I can't see myself buying this CD.

Despite that, I agree that there should be a link to a place where you can buy the CD. Seems basic enough. Amazon has that whole referral program.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 24, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Of course I put in a link. Just click on the caption under the image of the CD. I guess that wasn't as obvious as I thought it was.

Posted by: MidgetteA | March 24, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

It's GREAT to see a classical CD review here! More, please!! And how about ones about some more interesting music? But I guess seeing what Slatkin is up to is ok now and then.

Posted by: dccello | March 24, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see the interest in CD reviews. If you go to the left-hand column under "Recent Posts," scroll down to "Entries by Category" and click on "CD reviews," you'll get a list of the CD reviews that have run on this blog in the past. We'll keep it going.

Posted by: MidgetteA | March 24, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for pointing that out, Anne. On my browser, the caption under the image of the CD cover displays in very small type, and the text of the caption gives no indication that it's an external link. Also, in my opinion, the natural place for a link to buy the CD would be at the end of the review, assuming the reader has read the review and decided the CD is worth investigating further.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 24, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

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