Opera Scotland

Bells 1975Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Bells

Rachmaninov's attractive choral symphony based on a Russian translation of Poe, is in four movements, each representing a metal from which bells might be cast. Gold and Silver are naturally rather more lightweight than Bronze or Iron. The big orchestra, large mixed chorus and three soloists give the rapidly developing composer plenty of scope to let his imagination flow.

During his famous period leading the London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn rediscovered and recorded much fine music that had been neglected. Rachmaninov's five Piano Concertos were all recorded with Vladimir Ashkenazy, with the neglected first and fourth showing up well in company with the popular warhorses. In those days the symphonies were all neglected, and on the rare occasions when the second was exhumed it was invariably heavily cut. Previn opened out those cuts and showed the work to be a great piece when played as intended. The recording still sounds excellent.

And what of The Bells? Most of the Usher Hall audience were hearing it for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed the range of drama produced from the wonderful choral writing and the varied colours coming from the orchestra. The soloists were all as on the recording, and no doubt gained in conviction from having given several performances elsewhere.

Vaughan Williams had been seriously ignored in the years since his death, and Previn steadily worked his way through the symphonies, being astonished at the treasures he found. The VW revival had not yet reached Scotland, so it was wonderfully instructive to have this concert begin with the Symphony no5 in D major, a superb piece by any standards.

Performance DatesBells 1975

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Usher Hall | Edinburgh

8 Sep, 20.00

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