New Year’s Eve in St Petersburg. New year’s concert

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz,Borodin,Glinka,Rachmaninov,Rimsky-Korsakov,Rossini and Saint-Saëns. Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall,St Petersburg: works by Liszt,Strauss,Stravinsky,Tchaikovsky,Verdi,Wagner
LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty, Act III; plus works by Rossini and Saint-Saëns. Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, St Petersburg: works by Liszt, Berlioz, Verdi, Strauss, Glinka, Wagner, Stravinsky, Borodin, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov
PERFORMER: Soloists and Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre; Soloists of the Academy of Young Singers, Mariinsky Theatre; Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra/Valery Gergiev. Yefim Bronfman (piano), Yuri Bashmet (viola); Mariinsky Theatre Ch & O/Gergie
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 031

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Gergiev ushered last New Year at the Mariinsky with characteristic panache. First he conducted a ballet gala in the blue and gold auditorium of the great theatre, neatly comprising nearly all of The Sleeping Beauty’s fairytale divertissement – and as the dancers rarely get the music director under their feet, so to speak, there must have been a new energy. Not only do we get the two Act II entr’actes – the ‘Sleep’ music robbed, as usual, of about half of its crucial one hundred bars – but also several numbers which never came to London when the Kirov, as it then was, presented its lavish re-creation of the 1891 original: these include Cinderella and her prince and a delightful extended showing for the junior Mariinsky corps, Tchaikovsky’s brilliant ‘Hop o’my thumb’.

The dancing in the Pas de deux is distinguished – Andrian Fadeyev shows tremendous height in his leaping variation – but nothing can match the surprise appearance of the ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina, poetry in motion as Fokine’s Dying Swan.Gergiev’s final coup is to stitch Rossini’s tribute to an old French tune in Il viaggio a Reims into Tchaikovsky’s final homage to the same number.

Unless you want to hear what the mesmerising Lopatkina has to say, you may want to skip the lazy accompanying ‘documentary’, which matches shots of a not very snowy New Year’s Eve in St Petersburg with extended scenes of Gergiev animatedly rehearsing Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto for the impending concert and sequences of the company’s Nutcracker, all of it in distorted sound (no such reproach, thankfully, can be levelled at the main performances).

The concert is a typical Gergiev blockbuster, with two first-rate soloists, all of Harold in Italy – not just the finale, as the DVD cover says – and a vivid balance between colourful Russian scores and music by western composers associated with St Petersburg.

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The brand-new concert hall can’t compare visually with the neoclassical Hall of Columns, but the sound has plenty of detail. The camerawork is fairly basic compared to other recent filmed concerts with a bigger crew, and what a pity there’s so little documentation of the works or the Sleeping Beauty production anywhere in either DVD.