BBC Legends – Gennadi Rozhdestvensky

0 of 5 stars

The Nutcracker – Act Two
The Bolt – Suite, Op.27a [excerpts]
Scènes de ballet

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky

Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich recorded on 18 August 1987 in the Royal Albert Hall, London (BBC Proms); Stravinsky recorded on 29 April 1981 in the Royal Festival Hall, London

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: February 2007
BBCL 4204-2
Duration: 78 minutes

This attractive collection of Russian ballet scores is collected together under the magnetic baton of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky – someone who can make things happen.

Act Two of The Nutcracker is given with glorious spaciousness, rhetorical grandeur and a keen ear for detail – this is the artistry of a conductor who has conducted this music in the theatre and who has the imagination to free himself from the shackles of the choreography. This vivid concert performance reveals Tchaikovsky’s miraculous score (and scoring) as well as its dangerous undercurrents; those numbers celebrated for being part of the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ are brought off with elan and wit – one can sense Rozhdestvensky beaming – and those outside of it (often the greater music) are brought off with searing emotionalism, the ‘Pas de deux’ for example. This number suggests though, as elsewhere in The Nutcracker, that the (digital) recorded sound can be rather dry, distant and dynamically restricted, but it’s a classy performance full of delicious observations and uninhibited responses.

The ironic twists and turns of four movements from the suite from Shostakovich’s The Bolt suit Rozhdestvensky perfectly, whether the music is ‘industrial’ or threatening or scurrying or facetious: for ‘The Bureaucrat’ movement read ‘buffoon’, and the ‘Intermezzo’ treads like a slinky pussycat. The sonic reproduction (from the same concert as The Nutcracker) remains a tad arid but is fuller and has more impact.

The best sound – tangible and immediate (and analogue) – comes from the Royal Festival Hall – complements a wryly observed account of Scènes de ballet, Stravinsky’s ingenious score that is as elegant as it is whimsical, full of lovely and, one suspects, irreverent ideas, which Rozhdestvensky relishes with a twinkle in the eye; it’s not the most pristine account imaginable, but the pungent sonorities and suggestive shaping make this an especially valuable raiding of the archive.

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