The Symphonic Dances, an orchestral suite in three sections, was the last work Rachmaninov completed and proved one of his most popular compositions. Although rarely sentimental, it draws on many of the composer’s reminiscences of Russia, from where he emigrated in 1917. It is characteristically lyrical with vivacious rhythmic sections, reminiscent of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and the composer’s own Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.
Gergiev couples the Symphonic Dances with another work in three movements by a Russian émigré to the USA. Stravinsky’s Symphony in three movements was written between 1942-45 and was the first work Stravinsky completed after his arrival in the USA. Although he claimed it was a ‘War Symphony’, his true inspiration was typically vague.