Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev,Rachmaninoff
LABELS: EMI Double Forte
WORKS: Ivan the Terrible; Alexander Nevsky
PERFORMER: Sheila Armstrong (soprano), Anna Reynolds, Irina Arkhipova (mezzo-soprano), Robert Tear (tenor), John Shirley-Quirk, Anatoly Mokrenko (baritone), Boris Morgunov (narrator); Ambrosian Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti, LSO & Chorus/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 73353 2 ADD Reissue (1972-8)
‘Which edition of Ivan?’ is becoming as thorny a question as ‘Which version of Boris Godunov?’ now that Stassevich’s 1962 oratorio version, heard absolutely complete here, is no longer sacred. Yet unless you must have the Polonaise or the climactic ‘murder in the cathedral’ sequence (botched by Stassevich), Muti’s version, searing in its inner landscapes and scorching in combat, still outstares Gergiev (Philips) and Järvi (Chandos). Narrator Morgunov’s stylised histrionics may not be to all tastes, but his role is indispensible in the voice-and-orchestra melodrama of ‘Ivan’s Appeal to the Boyars’. Alas – and this is becoming a daily plaint – no texts are given in the skimpy booklet. Since Previn’s LSO Chorus impersonates a real Russian choir less convincingly than Muti’s Ambrosians, his Nevsky and Bells qualify only for ‘best performances by a non-Russian team’ (but what a trilogy this is!). Prokofiev’s earlier film score is heavily but memorably underlined, while Rachmaninoff’s achingly chromatic ‘choral symphony’ is more coolly viewed, to lend rhythmic shape to alarms and moving restraint to the final threnody. David Nice