The Sleeping Beauty
State Academy Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’/Vladimir Jurowski
ICA ICAC 5144
Given the sheer multitude of recordings of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, it seems perhaps foolhardy of ICA Classics to release a recording, even at mid-price, of Sleeping Beauty based entirely on a single live concert performance. One of today’s most acclaimed conductors, Vladimir Jurowski’s characteristically no-nonsense and sometimes rather brisk approach informs this account by the Moscow-based State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia. Their performance of the complete ballet starts well – the vengeful fairy Carabosse’s theme, vigorous and furious, is strikingly countered by the soothing and markedly slower strains of the good fairy Aurora. Throughout, the playing is crisp with tight ensemble.
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There are several caveats, however, some almost inevitable in a single and apparently unpatched live performance. Few solos are blemish-free (the violinist Sergey Girshenko is no match for the soloists on such alternative recordings as Neeme Järvi’s or Mikhail Pletnev’s); notable exceptions include the cellist Paul Suss, whose lovely playing graces the Act II Pas d’action; Evgeny Yakovlev’s excellent flute playing; and the splendidly feline oboe and cor anglais in ‘Puss-in-boots and the White Cat’. There is a fair amount of noise from the audience, and from pages being turned. More worrisome, though, is the general charmlessness of much of this performance. True, there’s an element of Imperial glorification in this ballet, but Jurowski foregrounds this at the expense of its fairytale enchantment. The loud tuttis, with their hard-edged and heavy-footed discipline, sound more like triumphal military parades rather than good-natured hunting scenes and general merry-making.