WORKS: War and Peace
PERFORMER: Alexandr Gergalov, Yelena Prokina, Gegam Gregoriam, Olga Borodina, Yuri Marusin, Nikolai Okhotnikov, Vassily Gerelo, Irina Bogachova, Alexandr Morozov; Kirov Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 434 097-2 DDD
True ensemble and a sense of theatre are the vital operatic ingredients every studio recording has to recreate at one remove. So it’s worth enduring the irritations of this live performance – not least the audience shuffle and stage noises which invade the Moscow salon, and even the peasant hut where Prince Andrei lies dying – to enjoy stage history in the making. Having drilled the Kirov Orchestra in every one of the short, rounded phrases which are the threads and fibre of Prokofiev’s heartfelt tribute to Tolstoy, Gergiev uses the continuity of Graham Vick’s staging to drive the narrative forward across the 13 scenes. Yelena Prokina as Natasha gives a radiant performance on stage, touching hands movingly with Gegam Gregoriam’s ardent Pierre in the tense, heart-in-mouth sixth scene.
However, when romantic waltz yields to military march there’s stiff competition from Rostropovich on Erato. Gergiev could do with more of his rival’s broad devotion to Prokofiev’s most inspired patriotic melodies, though his shortwinded Kutuzov, Nikolai Okhotnikov, hardly helps.
Yet the long and difficult scene of Moscow’s burning shows the Kirov ensemble flame at its brightest, though the rather covered acoustics are not flattering to the chorus. It would be luxury indeed if you could afford this with both the companion video (Philips VHS 070 427-3) and with the greater recorded glories of Rostropovich as well. David Nice