Intense emotions painted in vivid colors make each of these symphonies a stunning experience. The lush beauty of Rachmaninoff, the drama of Tchaikovsky, and the emotional intensity of Shostakovich are explored by the world’s finest orchestras and leading conductors.
Ethereal and dramatic, Michel van der Aa’s concerto was specifically written for Janine Jansen, a violinist who meets the many challenges of this stunning music. Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2—a Philadelphia Orchestra specialty—has its own dramatic effects in the final movement, where the composer uncannily captures the sound of cascading Russian church bells. Its heart and soul, however, is the breathtaking third-movement Adagio that spins out a stream of beautiful melodies.
The Philadelphia Orchestra Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director and Conductor Janine Jansen, Violin
Bernstein has four characters search for faith in a New York City bar while Shostakovich’s symphony flirts with danger. W. H. Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety, an eclogue on man’s spiritual quest, inspired the pulsing jazz piano and vivid orchestral colors of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2. Echoes of Mahler are evident in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, especially the emotional arc of its finale. The composer cancelled the symphony’s 1936 premiere knowing its unorthodox style ran against Soviet cultural policy—a mistake that could have cost him his freedom or more.
Boston Symphony Orchestra Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Piano
With a seductive whisper of winds, horns, harp, and strings, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune ushered in a new world of music where the relationship of harmony, melody, rhythm, and orchestral color were beautifully blurred. There’s nothing hazy, however, about the visceral struggle with fate that’s the essence of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, nor in the work’s thrilling, life-affirming finale. There’s more Russian music when mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili sings Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death.
The MET Orchestra Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Conductor Anita Rachvelishvili, Mezzo-Soprano
DEBUSSY Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
MUSSORGSKY Songs and Dances of Death (orch. Shostakovich)