WORKS: The Nutcracker
PERFORMER: State SO/Evgeny Svetlanov
CATALOGUE NO: 7321170812 ADD
As conductor Valery Gergiev recently put it to me, Svetlanov’s team -formerly the USSR Symphony Orchestra – is ‘an orchestra with a voice’, perhaps more so at the moment than the St Petersburg Philharmonic or Pletnev’s much-vaunted Russian National Orchestra. In the past, Svetlanov and his orchestra were not always well served either by the quality of instruments available or by the creaking institution of Melodiya, much of whose treasury now rests in the capable hands of BMG. This Nutcracker is a case in point. Dismal woodwind intonation resounds in reverberant acoustics, and the engineering almost passes out under pressure from the sheer weight that accumulates in the Act I transformation scenes: no match, in short, for the LSO/Previn recording on Classics for Pleasure.
Svetlanov’s Swan Lake is a different matter: can it really date from the same year, 1988, as BMG claims? Lively, forward sound demonstrates the powerful strings at their unsurpassable best, and while not all the woodwind solos are up to the characterful standard of the solo violinist, their biting tone is distinctive. Svetlanov breezes through the scenes and variations with panache, saving his idiosyncrasies — apart from a whirling princess or two — for the final tragedy, where the blaring trumpets may not be to all tastes. The Russian rawness of it all, though, is undeniably suited to the least sophisticated of the Tchaikovsky ballets. David Nice