Rachmaninov’s swirling chromaticism and dark palette in the prologue and epilogue, establishing a backcloth to the lovers’ fate, are graphically realised by the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda, and intensified by the BBC Singer’s wordless wailing as the chorus of lost souls.
Noseda sculpts the brooding passions of Rachmaninov’s dramatic score with thrilling intensity, before the BBC Philharmonic’s ‘whirlwind of the damned’ swirls up from the depths with gut-churning power. While the libretto’s flaws will always persist, Noseda’s interpretation is never less than compelling.
The sighing, swirling music of the opening, depicting the tormented soul of Francesca and her lover in hell, is stunning, and the climactic, peak-and-trough gestures of the central love duet are thrilling. The singing, from a Russian-speaking cast, is loud and exciting if not always seductive, but with such excellent accompanying the overall effect is still passionate.
The recording quality is magnificent, the sound opening up thrillingly at climactic moments and capturing the voices in what seems like a completely natural acoustic. Excellent notes and a complete libretto (in Russian, English, German and French) complete an altogether impressive package. Very Strongly recommended.
International Record Review
Rarely performed, Rachmaninov’s steamy one-acter manages to transcend its clunky libretto (Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest) and achieve moments of angst-ridden rapture. Svetla Vassileva makes an impassioned Francesca, with eloquent support from Misha Didyk’s ardent Paolo and Sergey Murzaev’s simmering Lanceotto. But the stars of this recording are Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic, who evoke all the exquisite agonies of an adulterous couple condemned to Dante’s Hell.
…Rachmaninov at his Romantic best and the Chandos production is of the usual high standard.
Liverpool Daily Post
This is an excellent way of coming to know a flawed but interesting piece of Rachmaninov, and it is much helped by excellent presentation from Chandos.
Noseda is completely at home in this passionate outpouring, and the respond to him with brilliance. And the relaxation of the tension after the love-scene’s climax is as meltingly lovely as it was in concert.
Manchester Evening News
Rachmaninov’s romantic one-act opera about the doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca in Dante’s Inferno receives a powerful performance of intense atmosphere and full bloom.
Telegraph ‘CDs of the year’
Noseda draws forth plenty of power and sweep, passion, and a sense of doom from the orchestra. The choral passages are particularly impressive. Nezzubenkov’s black bass is cavernous, terrifying, emerging as if from hell instead of a human singer. Akimov’s pointed tenor has little to do, but he does it well. Most commanding and authoritative is the Lanceotto of Murzaev – solid, but not stolid, menacing in its strength.
American Record Guide