During a journey through Italy in 1882, Peter Tchaikovsky received a parcel in the post from a friend containing a book with the fairy tale Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This was, however, in the French adaptation Histoire d’un casse-noi- sette, which AlexandreDumas senior had published in 1844. The original by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann was published at Christmastime in 1816, and was included at the time in the collection Die Serapionsbrüder. A contemporary review stated that the text was hardly a fairy tale, “but the rogue only takes on the mask of the child, in order to make fun of decent people by means of words and ges- tures in an even more amusing man- ner”. This story depicts “a complete world with all its fantastic objects, the way this presents itself to the fearful, innocent and yet greedy soul of a child (of the girl Marie of noble birth) in a delightful dream”: i.e. as a battle of the good (the dolls and toys) against the evil (the mice in the girl’s bedroom) in a fantastic Kingdom of Sweets, to which Marie is transport- ed through mysterious doors by the Nutcracker, her Christmas present.
Total time: 01:44:24
|Original Recording Format|
Jean Marie Geijsen, Roger de Schot
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
Merging / Pyramix
|Release Date||May 5, 2015|
Vedernikov molds phrases very seductively and entices a playing style that is akin to the response the Mikhail Pletnev can elicit from the RNO in ballet music. All the phrases have a lift and grace to them which is entirely beguiling and does complete justice to the ecstatic sections of the piece. There is a distinctive Russian approach to timbre and tuning – perhaps necessary in this music!
Those who are wondering if the “set piece” numbers are well executed can be assured that they are indeed fabulously well played. All the textures are clean and polished for the items that make up the suite that is shamefully more famous than the complete ballet. The children in the waltz at the end of Act I are delightful and crown the glistening flourishes with an innocent purity that is a joy to behold.
The pacing is firmly in the central tradition – nothing overly fast nor ponderously slow. The area where some might have doubts is the conception of the whole that is evinced by Vedernikov. There is little in the way of steering an emotional journey that many interpreters have attempted to find in bygone eras but I am perfectly happy that this strategy was not pursued. This is a fantasy of almost complete delight and I find it hard to reconcile a musical journey that evokes Mahler with this piece.
In the end, I could not help but falling deeply in love with the music all over again – something that the performers must surely gain some credit for their effect on me! I have found it increasingly difficult to abstain from these selections. To further enhance our enjoyment, Pentatone has offered us two encores.
The first is the reasonably substantial extract from Swan Lake which I hope, as it is very difficult to perform the complete ballet as an encore, that the rest of the piece is being organized for a future release as we speak. The second encore is the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin and is played with the same flair and grace that is a constancy throughout this album.
The recording from Pentatone is quite fabulous as well. Having set the microphones back compared to the earlier operatic recital, the hall gains a sense of resonance that was utterly lacking in the earlier Bolshoi Opera excerpts album. The sound stage is also most convincing and a worthy addition to Pentatone’s growing catalog.
In summary, this is a gorgeous album of utterly beautiful music that cannot be played often enough. Highly recommended.
Rating: Performance 4.5 out of Stars, Multichannel Sonics: 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
Recorded in Moscow, this fine performance in magnificent DSD 5.0 Surround Sound provides quite a contrast to the formerly decrepit sonics of Soviet era Russian recordings by the Bolshoi Orchestra. The Nutcracker became part of the standard repertory in Russia only eight years after its premiere, and presumably just as many local ballet companies stage the classic around the holidays every year there as do in North America.
Everything sparkles, and the tempos are fairly brisk – but then the Bolshoi dancers probably have no problems keeping up with them. The very familiar sections of the ballet included in the usual suites are played with a freshness that seldom lags.
But what hearing the complete score shows is that there is lots of equally great music here that didn’t make it to the suites. At least one of the standard CD versions squeezes the entire ballet score onto one disc, but at least PentaTone has included five tracks of Tchaikovsky fillers on this album. This set follows on the label’s recent release of two other fine Bolshoi albums – the 3-album Ruslan & Lyudmila opera and the Highlights from Russian Operas.
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