LABELS: Bel Air
ALBUM TITLE: Tribute to Evgeny Svetlanov
WORKS: Rachmaninov: The Bells; Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3; Prokofiev: Two Poems for Female Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 7; Seven, They Are Seven
PERFORMER: Tatiana Pavlovskaya (soprano), Vsevolod Grivnov (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Yefim Bronfman (piano); Yurlov State Academic Chorus; State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia/Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 107
Apart from its virtues as a brilliant piece of programming – a Bartók American green salad between two slices of rich black Russian bread – this concert should be snapped up by Prokofiev lovers. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an electric performance of his seismic 1917 invocation Seven, they are Seven, and there’s no contemporary recording to my knowledge of the Op. 7 Poems for female chorus and orchestra. Their silver age gleaming here pleads better concert-hall acquaintance. As a serene glide before the eruption of the cantata, they work superbly. And here we have the best of Russian ensembles, the Yurlov State Academic Chorus, a reminder of vintage Soviet-era quality.
How they spit and crackle in the ‘Alarm Bells’ movement of Rachmaninov’s The Bells (oddly used as apocalyptic background to speeded up film of Moscow at night in the opening credits). Evgeny Svetlanov, to whom the concert is dedicated, conducted the work two weeks before he died, and Jurowski’s approach with Svetlanov’s old orchestra, way past its glory days, is fleeter, less deeply sensuous. The male soloists lack nuance, but Vsevolod Grivnov has tenorial lungs of iron for the Prokofiev cantata. Jurowski knows all the words; one can see him reflect every emotion even through the choppy camerawork, and watch his superb stick technique in claustrophobic close-up.
Presentation is poor: no booklet, and why wise words from Jurowski only on the Rachmaninov? Never mind; there are riches here, and the Bartók Third Piano Concerto with Yefim Bronfman, master shader of the chameleonic style, would be worth the cost of the DVD alone.