Sunday, January 20, 2008
Last night as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concert ended the energy of the conductor, Antonio Pappano, almost took him off the side of the podium as the final gesture of his baton drew Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in e, Op. 27, to a close. It was a marvelous ending to a delightful concert that also included The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62 by Anatoly Liadov and Dimitri Shostakovich's Second Cello Concerto, Op. 26.
Rachmaninov composed his second symphony while resting in Dresden at the end of an adulatory decade that began with his famous Second Piano Concerto. The Symphony is full of beautiful romantic melodies that are his hallmark. After a somewhat melancholy but agitated opening movement there follows a brilliant scherzo full of energy that provides a contrast to the opening. The heart of the symphony is the adagio with a profoundly moving melody that is introduced by the clarinet before being reworked with harmonic variations throughout the orchestra. The Symphony concludes with an energetic finale that draws on the earlier movements to complete his musical statement. This work joins the Second and Third Piano Concertos as the pinnacle of Rachmaninov's symphonic accomplishment. The performance last night was near perfect and the audience responded with appropriate praise for the conductor and orchestra.