Shostakovich The Nose/Gergiev

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Shostakovich
The Nose – Opera in three acts to a libretto by Y. Zamyatin, G. Ionin, A. Preis and the composer after the novella by Nikolai Gogol

Platon Kuzmich Kovalev – Vladislav Sulimsky
Ivan Yakolevich – Alexei Tanovitski
Praskovya Osipovna – Tatiana Kravtsova
A district constable – Andrei Popov
Ivan, Kovalev’s valet – Sergei Skorokhodov
The Nose – Sergei Semishkur
A countess’s servant – Sergei Romanov
Newspaper office clerk – Vadim Kravets
A doctor / A coachman – Gennadi Bezzubenkov
Yarzhkin – Yevgeny Strashko
Pelageya Grigorievna Podtochina – Elena Vitman
Pelageya Grigorievna Podtochina’s daughter / A market woman – Zlata Dombrovskaya
Solo soprano (cathedral) – Yulia Khazanova

Numerous other roles played by members of the Mariinsky Company and Chorus

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev

Recorded 15-23 July 2008 in Mariinsky Concert Hall, St Petersburg


Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: August 2009
CD No: MARIINSKY LABEL
MAR0501 (2 SACDs)
Duration: 1 hour 42 minutes

This first operatic release of the Mariinsky Label fills an important gap in the catalogue, for although Gennadi Rozdestvensky’s 1975 recording of “The Nose” with forces from the Moscow Chamber Theatre has been available fitfully, this Mariinsky version is granted the full orchestral and operatic treatment. And thrilling it proves to be. The huge cast evidently has the piece right under its skin and a sense of long theatrical experience pervades the performance.

Valery Gergiev is well versed in conducting “The Nose” and many of the singers who take the 50-plus solo roles reprise them on this recording; although many have only cursory appearances, they are nicely characterful in their brief moments in the spotlight. The recorded sound brings all the instruments into a close focus so that one can register the complex interplay of their parts throughout. Any risk of this making the aural experience seem constricted has been avoided, and the voices also are blended well into the sound-picture. Scenes such as that set in the Kazan Cathedral are nicely atmospheric, with Yulia Khazanova’s very Russian soprano soaring into the stratosphere helping conjure up the theatrical setting well.

Gergiev leads a typically taut and energetic account of this atmospheric score and realises so many of the musical tics familiar in Shostakovich’s future output – both theatrical and symphonic. Its fun and educational to register how developed the composer’s musical language was at 22 years of age and how many seeds of later works can be found here. The interludes are fairly well known and, like those in the later “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, they carry the drama forward in an exhilarating manner. Some of the orchestral playing is breathtaking in these passages, and the percussion effects prove crucial in underlying much of the surreal humour.

Amongst the main solo roles Vladislav Sulimsky’s ripe baritone gives focus to the part of Kovalev and the performance as a whole. He catches the character’s exasperation with his independent and haughty nose, and also manages to evince a genuine sense of the emotional trials of his character as well. In the role of the Nose itself the taxingly high lines are sung with assurance by Sergei Semishkur, and mostly without the strain showing. Elena Vitman’s Pelageya Grigorievna Podtochina touches-in her cameo with a nice sense of the imperious whilst singing with fruitiness in the contralto depths. Gennadi Bezzubenkov makes much of the humour in his appearance as the Doctor. All in all this is an ensemble performance that is hard to imagine being bettered.

The discs are packaged with full libretto, a generous array of photographs and an informative essay on the work. This issue leaves one keenly anticipating the filling of other recording gaps in the Russian operatic repertoire. Highly recommended.

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