Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: The Sleeping Beauty (complete)
PERFORMER: Kirov Orchestra, St Petersburg/ Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 434 922-2 DDD
The ballet of The Sleeping Beauty is, beyond all doubt, the most convincing example of Tchaikovsky’s great creative power. Stravinsky was surely right, the much shorter Nutcracker may be a more perfectly rounded score, but The Sleeping Beauty – all two-and-three-quarter hours of it – finds Tchaikovsky’s flame of melodic inspiration and piquant orchestration burning brightest in the long term.

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Although Valery Gergiev has never conducted the ballet in performance, he certainly knows how to pace the drama. All those one-minute divertissement gems flow graciously into one another, and the symphonic metamorphoses of the Lilac Fairy’s theme are granted proper gravity. There are one or two numbers in which the orchestra finds Gergiev’s speeds too slow or too fast for comfort, but even there character comes first – and you won’t find the famous Waltz and Rose Adagio more keenly phrased. The clarinet is the star of the show – try the ravishing introduction to the Prologue’s Pas de six – and, while the violins still need more bright panache, the warm, woody sound of lower strings makes amends. The Kirov acoustics are on the dry side. David Nice