WORKS: Alexander Nevsky; Cinderella Suite No. 1
PERFORMER: Marjana Lipovsek (contralto)Paris Orchestra & Chorus/Semyon Bychkov
CATALOGUE NO: 434 070-2 DDD
Listening and listening again, I cannot persuade myself that the thrice-repeated ‘labouring’ theme (ancient Russia under the Mongolian yoke) is played exactly together by the woodwind from oboe down to double bassoon. At the very opening of Alexander Nevsky, this blots an otherwise commendable performance.
Adapted from a film score, Prokofiev’s patriotic cantata is a forceful but disproportionate work, the ‘Battle on the Ice’ stretching to 13 minutes, almost half the whole. In sombre contrast comes the contralto dirge (‘The Field of the Dead’), marvellously sung by Lipovsek. The choir of the Orchestre de Paris sounds as if it is insufficiently numerous but trying hard.
Under Semyon Bychkov, its regular conductor, the orchestra displays considerable virtuosity. Dazzling trumpet acrobatics enliven Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, or rather the first (1946) of the three suites which the composer compiled from it. Extremes of the pitch-spectrum come across remarkably in the recorded sound. Nevertheless Bychkov’s is a rather hard-driven performance, especially in ‘Cinderella’s Waltz’: she sounds none too happy, even before midnight strikes. Arthur Jacobs