WORKS: Cinderella; Summer Night
PERFORMER: Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 445 830-2 DDD
Generally leaner of texture and more elusive in character than Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev’s second full-length ballet needs a special helping hand. Pletnev has all the necessary firmness but not, it seems – at least through the medium of his Russian National Orchestra, still finding its feet – quite enough affection. The strings have been capably rehearsed to deal with the ugly sisters’ angular bickerings; but neither the spare magic of the Fairy Godmother’s appearances nor the special aura surrounding Cinderella at the ball have quite the luminous atmosphere required of them. By keeping a clean distance in the Moscow Philharmonic Hall, the production team tends to emphasise Pletnev’s chilly brand of elegant dancing.
Continuity is the real problem. DG should have taken note of Ashkenazy’s sweepingly affectionate, artfully balanced Cinderella on Decca and closed the gaps between musical numbers; the stop-start feel is fatal when the score itself loses impetus in the string of pastiche-and-parody dances before Cinderella’s arrival at the ball or in the repeat-mode of Act III’s later stages. The Summer Night Suite sounds like an ill-prepared afterthought: some of Prokofiev’s loveliest inspirations – from the marvellous comic opera Betrothal in a Monastery – are on display here and Pletnev’s casual treatment will not win them the popularity they deserve. David Nice