Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 6
Sound Quality: 9
Alexander Nevsky is nothing if not splashy. It’s full of brilliant scoring, as befits music for Eisenstein’s cinematic epic. There are cavalcades of mallet percussion, powerful crashes from cymbals, bells, and tam-tam, growling brass, throbbing rhythms, and acres of wonderfully dark, “Russian” sonorities. Reference Recordings also typically sees to it that its engineering does the music justice, at least potentially, but there’s little they can do when the playing is lackluster and the conducting so unexciting. You’ll listen in vain for the menace in “The Crusaders in Pskov,” or the patriotic fervor in “Arise, People of Russia” and the jubilant finale. As for “The Battle on the Ice,” well, it’s more of a minor skirmish. I wish it were otherwise, but there it is.
Matters improve in Lieutenant Kijé, a much lighter work in any event, but there have been any number of excellent versions of this piece, starting with Ormandy and Szell (both on Sony). For Nevsky, the best version for my money remains Abbado’s for DG, which also contains an excellent Kijé and the Scythian Suite for good measure. That makes it a better value as well as a more rewarding musical experience. Oh, well.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Abbado (DG)
- PROKOFIEV, SERGEI:Alexander Nevsky; Lieutenant Kijé Suite