Valery Gergiev

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Scythian Suite; Fireworks; Piano Concerto; Le martyre de St Sebastien
PERFORMER: St Sebastien Alexander Toradze (piano); Rotterdam PO


Some conductors have reputations for meticulous rehearsal. Others are notorious for leaving the fate of a performance to the moment itself. And with these two fascinating releases we are shown both sides of the coin. Christoph von Dohnanyi, filmed in rehearsal with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the beginning of his time as music director, takes the detailed approach.

His technique is to work fast and intensively, to elicit maximum concentration from everyone, to spare nobody's blushes in the quest for as technically perfect and musically alive a result as possible. The film is far more engaging than that bald description makes it sound. Though we do not hear the symphony in concert, there's a real sense that we are witnessing a performance as it takes shape.

Gergiev, on the other hand, relies on his charisma and lecturing (of the most affable kind) to convey what he wants, what atmospheres are appropriate, what Prokofiev's savage Scythian Suite is all about. 'Trombones, three before the end, wild scream, yeah? It shouldn't come like another harmony, yeah?' he smilingly says.


And this disc also includes fascinating input from Prokofiev's son Oleg and from Gergiev talking to camera himself, as well as an entire concert, with the Prokofiev surrounded by Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Wind (with Alexander Toradze) and the symphonic fragments from Debussy's Le martyre de St Sébastien. Stephen Pettitt