This disc logically
couples two works which Prokofiev originally
wrote as film music in the 1930s and
then adapted as concert pieces. It seems
to be a straight mid-price reissue of
a disc originally put out by Telarc
in the late 1980s.
was a medieval hero who, in 1242, defeated
invading German forces in a battle on
the frozen surface of Lake Chudskoye.
This "Battle on Ice" forms
the fifth and longest section of Prokofievís
seven-part cantata, and it contains
some of the most exciting music that
he wrote. Before it there is a brief
orchestral introduction, a chorus reminiscing
about a previous victory over the Swedes,
the invasion of the town of Pskov by
crusading Germans and a call to arms.
The battle is followed by the lament
of a Russian woman ("The Field
of the Dead") and then the triumphant
return of Alexander to Pskov. Prokofievís
music is both dramatic and profound;
this is one of his masterpieces.
Both the story and
music of the satire Lieutenant Kije
are probably better known. Kije was
a fictitious character created by an
imperial error which could not be corrected.
Eventually, even Kijeís paper existence
had to end and he was buried with full
military honours. Prokofievís suite
has five movements.
Everything about this
disc smacks of refinement: details of
interpretation, orchestral playing,
singing and sound are all beyond reproach
(and soloist Christine Cairns is excellent
in the lament) but there is, I fear,
something missing - impact. Alexander
Nevsky seems lacking in grandeur
and the violence of the Battle on Ice
is too controlled. Lieutenant Kije
fares worse, its humour almost non-existent.
In both works the indefinable Russian
quality of Prokofievís music is present
only at a low level.
made an earlier, well-received, recording
of Alexander Nevsky with the
London Symphony Orchestra and it is
hard to escape the feeling that his
best work on record comes from the period
when he was their music director. Waltonís
1st Symphony is another example
of a work he remade with conspicuously
less success Ė perhaps inevitably considering
how good the original was.
Despite many good things,
this can only be recommended to those
who prize quality of recorded sound
and refinement above everything else.
Patrick C Waller