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Shostakovich: The Nose / Gergiev, Mariinsky Chorus And Orchestra

Release Date: 06/09/2009 
Label:  Mariinsky   Catalog #: 501  
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Zhanna DombrovskayaElena VitmanVladislav SulimskySergey Semishkur,   ... 
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater OrchestraSt. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Where does one start in discussing Shostakovich's The Nose? Funnier than the last quartet, more laden with irony than Babi Yar? Well, it's a start.

Running 102 minutes and based on a story by Gogol, it was little Dmitri's first opera, written in his 20s, and it shows a fully formed composer. Ivan, a barber, finds a Nose in a roll his wife has just baked for him; 10 minutes later (opera time) Major Kovalev, a civil servant who is one of the barber's regular customers, awakens to find his Nose missing. A search is on all over St. Petersburg, and when Kovalev bumps into his Nose in
Read more a cathedral, he learns that the Nose now has a civil service rank higher than his own and it denies belonging to him. But Kovalev is momentarily distracted (he flirts with a young woman) and the Nose escapes. Kovalev tries to put an ad in the newspaper but to no avail. Everyone gets involved and the Nose is eventually caught, but Kovalev can't reattach it to his face. One morning he wakes up--and there it is, where it belongs.

The music is part shocking atonality, part folk lampoon, with many of the pleasures coming from the brilliantly-colored orchestra alone. A slapstick gallop separates two scenes; another interlude is seemingly senseless percussion. Ten policemen sing a folksy chorale in Act 2. Just when you think a vocal melody is about to take wing, a piccolo interrupts it, squealing away like a baby's wailing in church, but funnier. Wind instruments play at the top of their registers; brass wilt and whine. A group of travelers hope they won't be attacked by bandits. I'm not certain it's correct to refer to music as being composed in a stream-of-consciousness manner but this is as close as it gets.

The Nose was premiered in 1930 and immediately withdrawn; it reappeared in Russia 34 years later. Shostakovich was to do this sort of thing even better in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1934, but The Nose, even given a certain sameness to its outlandishness in its second half, is spectacular enough.

There are more than 70 solo singing roles, most of them tiny, some of them bizarre--the District Constable (Andrei Popov) is requested merely to scream in the highest possible tenor range for a minute or two. But Kovalev is a great role, and bass-baritone Vladislav Sulimsky manages to be both absurd and touching at the same time: he is vain and arrogant, but he is also in a pickle--what on earth is he supposed to do under the circumstances? If there is such a thing as uproariously funny isolation and paranoia, this is it.

Sergei Semishkur sings the role of the Nose, and he manages well with the clownishly high tessitura. Ivan is correctly puzzling as sung by Alexei Tanovitski. Indeed, the whole cast is marvelous if you're looking for characterization and originality rather than lovely singing--this is theater at its most brazen.

This is a studio recording and my suspicion is that with the type of precision Shostakovich calls for with his weird rhythms and intricate counterpoint, it's a good thing (the Met will perform it this year; let's see if it can be tamed). Valery Gergiev, obviously in his element and with his own orchestra and (spectacular) chorus, gives the work form and pathos while making certain that absurdity and satire reign supreme. This is, by the way, the first release on the Mariinsky label and it's quite an auspicious start. Fabulous fun!

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

The nose, Op. 15 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Zhanna Dombrovskaya (Soprano), Elena Vitman (Mezzo Soprano), Vladislav Sulimsky (Baritone),
Sergey Semishkur (Tenor), Tatyana Kravtsova (Soprano), Alexei Tanovitski (Bass),
Andrei Popov (Tenor), Genadij Bezzubenkov (Bass), Vadim Kravets (Bass),
Yevgeny Strashko (Tenor), Sergei Skorokhodov (Tenor)
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra,  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927-1928; USSR 

Featured Sound Samples

The Nose: Act I: Galop

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 An excellent and unusual opera June 1, 2013 By Weston Williams (Chicago, IL) See All My Reviews "This early work by Shostakovich shows a musical maturity and inventiveness that seems to elude so many composers of a similar age. The story, that of a man who has lost his nose, is almost absurd, but with undercurrents of anti-establishment fervor (particularly dangerous when the establishment was the USSR, as it was for Shostakovich). This recording is excellently conducted and produced, with great sound and performance quality across the board. Thoroughly recommended for any Shostakovich fan and for anyone looking for an opera that throws off conventions without sacrificing dramatic, comedic, or musical value." Report Abuse
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