Notes and Editorial Reviews
Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre ensembles have set new standards for the performance of Russian music. Their recordings of Tchaikovsky's ballets combine symphonic clarity with high emotion, full of the drama that comes with performing these rich scores in their true home.
Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:
The dream, the child-like wonder of The Nutcracker, remains irrepressible. But it’s not a work that plays itself. Slacken the pulse for a moment, take your eye off entries, fail to believe in its fantasy world, and it can only too easily fall apart. Gergiev and his Kirov company need no reminding of the fact. Resisting contrived
understatement, free of coyness or condescension, this is one of the most compellingly dramatised, rhythmically uplifting, charismatically charmed versions of recent years, its bold, grand, savage, sweeping, three-dimensionally involving attack underlining a wealth of refined nuances and charged emotions. Detail is phenomenal, the ensemble glowingly realised, the Act II divertissement thrillingly contrasted and physically exhilarating. Colouring, projection, riotous textural overspill (from 77:42, for instance), climax, novelty (a wonderfully flighted Stravinsky Firebird foreshadowed at 15:50) are everything. Continuity within and between numbers likewise; tempo too (at 81 minutes, this is a brisk reading). Compared with the vintage handling of the old ballet masters (Ansermet, Dorati, Mravinsky), the classic-cut transatlantic dash and elegance of analogue Previn, or the varyingly intense Russian competition of Ashkenazy, Ermler, Fedoseyev, Rozhdestvensky, Svetlanov and Temirkanov, Gergiev’s urgently pressing passion may seem hard and unyielding, but it’s an approach that brings its own rewards, theatrically and structurally. And his musicality is infectious. If you like your Nutcracker fairies all-Russian, wide-screen and super-lit, if you want an up-front orchestral encounter, then this has to be a clear first recommendation. Recorded in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus last August, the sound balance is grippingly demonstration-class. You almost feel on stage. Terrific.
-- Ates Orga, BBC Music Magazine
Gergiev is electrically dramatic when the music demands it, the opening of each of the three acts brings crisp vitality. Yet whenever the glorious theme of the Lilac Fairy reappears the graceful affection of the Russian playing is quite lovely, whether solo oboe or flute—as in No. 14, the ''Scene'' in Act 2, where the Fairy conjures up the image of the Princess for the melancholy Prince. The strings too are very tender here. Indeed the string playing is a constant pleasure and the expansive finale to the Prologue, again the Lilac Fairy theme, is most successful. Other woodwind solos are full of elegance (there is some really lovely clarinet playing in the Act 1 ''Pas de six'') and Gergiev matches his dramatic vitality with a delicate sense of fantasy. His gently rocking ''Panorama'' is even more subtle in its background rhythmic rocking than Mogrelia's, and the delightful Act 3 ''Pas de quatre''—where each of the Fairies appears in turn—is deliciously done. Indeed the whole of the Act 3 ''Divertissment'' is a joy (''Puss in-boots and the White Cat'' have great feline character), and rhythms are always sprightly. In short this is a splendid set.
-- Ivan March, Gramophone [7/1993]
Works on This Recording
Nutcracker, Op. 71 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Kirov Theater Orchestra,
Kirov Theater Chorus
Written: 1891-1892; Russia
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Kirov Theater Orchestra
Written: 1888-1889; Russia
Swan Lake, Op. 20 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Written: 1875-1876; Russia
Venue: Live Mariinsky Theater, St Petersburg, Russia
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