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Rachmaninov: The Bells; Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky / Evgeny Svetlanov


Release Date: 05/29/2012 
Label:  Ica Classics   Catalog #: 5069   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovSergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Sergei LeiferkusDaniil ShtodaYelena ProkinaAlfreda Hodgson
Conductor:  Yevgeny Svetlanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraBBC Symphony ChorusPhilharmonia Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



RACHMANINOFF The Bells. 1 PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky 2 Evgeny Svetlanov, cond; 1 Daniil Shtoda (ten); 1 Elena Prokina (sop); 1 Sergei Leiferkus (bs); 2 Alfreda Hodgson (mez); 1 BBC SO & Ch; Read more 2 Philharmonia O & Ch ICA ICAC 5069 (78:30) Live: London 1 4/19/2002, 2 1/30/1988


Sometimes, archive recordings have the air of, “Well, as long as we have access to it, let’s release it on CD.” Some of ICA Classics’s BBC discs have presented fairly unexceptional music-making, to say the least. Here, though, we have one absolutely fabulous performance ( The Bells ) and one very good one ( Alexander Nevsky ), and I would even give them preference over Svetlanov’s studio recordings of these same works.


With gorgeous live sound to boot, this version of The Bells really rings my chimes, so to speak. This is a work that stands or falls with the quality of the chorus. When I first auditioned this disc, I was unaware that I was not hearing a native Russian group; that’s how good the BBC Symphony Chorus is here. Furthermore, some recordings of this work content themselves with wimpy or emotionally anonymous soloists. Tenor Daniil Shtoda, on the other hand, displays brilliance of both sound and temperament, and the first movement, depicting the silver sleigh bells of youth, has great élan. Sergei Leiferkus is appropriately mournful in the funereal fourth movement; as with Shtoda, familiarity with the language and the style pays off. I am less impressed with soprano Elena Prokina, who is affected by what used to be called a “Slavic wobble,” but even she convinces this listener with the involvement of her singing. Svetlanov tended to get slower as he got older. Here, though, he never drags, and he points up the contrasts between the four movements with vivid color and attention to mood. The booklet note indicates that he looked frail on this occasion, and in fact, he died just a few weeks later. There’s nothing infirm about his conducting here, though.


The sound in Alexander Nevsky is more recessed and even a little muffled, although not fatally so. It doesn’t shoot the performance in the foot, but of course this is music that benefits from as much sonic realism as engineers, live or in the studio, can muster. Svetlanov is more introspective here. I get the feeling that he was trying to purge the score of its inherent vulgarity without cutting down on its excitement. If that was the case, he largely succeeded. The Philharmonia Chorus can’t hide its Englishness (for better or worse) and mezzo Alfreda Hodgson is rather maternal in her sixth-movement solo. Still, there is a lot to like here. In some ways, this is like André Previn’s EMI studio recording in its refusal to confuse weight with ponderousness, its avoidance of bombast, and its rather sensitive demeanor. (I recently discovered the Previn on an English EMI LP, and it immediately moved to the top of my list, so my comparing Svetlanov to Previn is meant as high praise.) It’s better than Svetlanov’s harshly recorded and only superficially exciting Soviet-era studio recording.


No sung texts are included, but do you really need them? The booklet note includes an interesting bit of trivia: As a child, Svetlanov appeared onstage in the role of Trouble in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly . He also made, according to annotator Colin Anderson’s reckoning, more than 3,000 recordings for Russian, Japanese, French, British, and Dutch companies. And you thought Neeme Järvi made a lot of CDs!


I’d get this if I were you.


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Bells, Op. 35 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Sergei Leiferkus (Baritone), Daniil Shtoda (Tenor), Yelena Prokina (Soprano)
Conductor:  Yevgeny Svetlanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913; Russia 
Date of Recording: 4/19/2002 
2.
Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Alfreda Hodgson (Alto)
Conductor:  Yevgeny Svetlanov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938/1939; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1/30/1988 

Sound Samples

Kolokola (The Bells), Op. 35: I. The Silver Sleigh Bells: Allegro ma non tanto
Kolokola (The Bells), Op. 35: II. The Mellow Wedding Bells: Lento
Kolokola (The Bells), Op. 35: III. The Loud Alarum Bells: Presto
Kolokola (The Bells), Op. 35: IV. The Mournful Iron Bells: Lento lugubre
Alexander Nevsky: I. Russia under the Mongolian Yoke
Alexander Nevsky: II. Song about
Alexander Nevsky: III. The Crusaders in Pskov
Alexander Nevsky: IV. Arise, ye Russian People
Alexander Nevsky: V. The Battle on Ice
Alexander Nevsky: VI. The Field of the Dead
Alexander Nevsky: VII. Alexander's Entry into Pskov

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