SERGEI RACHMANINOFF's most colorful and exhilarating music is not any of his symphonies or concertos, not even (getting to the good stuff) the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini or the magnificent Vespers.
For Rachmaninoff that's different and makes you feel good, try "The Bells." His spacious and brilliant choral symphony is a riot -- but a superbly controlled riot -- of colors and emotions that uses for its text a Russian translation of the well-known poem by Edgar Alan Poe.
This work will be performed Sunday at the Kennedy Center by the Choral Arts Society, whose recent recording of Rachmaninoff's Vespers with Mstislav Rostropovich (Erato ECD 75319) is one of the best recordings of the year. The Choral Arts Society has not yet recorded "The Bells," but anyone who wants to have it handy on compact disc should be delighted with the performance by the Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Neeme Ja rvi.
The disc's fillers include a lengthy "Romeo and Juliet" duet for soprano and tenor by Tchaikovsky, reconstructed by his student Taneyev from sketches left behind at his death and using melodies familiar from his popular tone poem of the same name. This music's combination of familiarity and unfamiliarity is utterly fascinating. RACHMANINOFF --
"The Bells." On records: Chandos (CHAN 8476); performed by the Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus. In Concert: Choral Arts Society, Sunday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.