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Sergei PROKOFIEV - Alexander Nevsky : Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Alexander Nevsky  
  Fritz Reiner conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus, featuring Rosalind Elias (mezzo-soprano)
  BMG Classics 09026 63708 2   [76:35]

The impact of the works of Prokofiev for film are immeasurable. Today's A-list composers owe a debt, whether they're aware of it or not. James Horner and Danny Elfman certainly seem to be. You have to wonder though if those entrenched in modern action movie scoring appreciates where their temp scores hearken back to.

This 1938 masterpiece has been released in several recordings of differing approach and quality. It is the opinion of this reviewer that Prokofiev's own cantata, which reduces it to the 7 excerpts presented here, does not do the score full justice. It is also my opinion that this 1959 recording is lacking on several counts too. The tempo is noticeably lackadaisical when it ought to gallop thunderously. One thing affecting the tempo in a couple of places is in performing the songs translated to English. The more concise (if harsher in tone) Russian clips along jauntily. Although it may be of intriguing curiosity value to hear, this really is a case of losing something in the translation.

In other places, some of the weight of the material feels thinned out. "The Crusaders in Pskov" ought to resonate at an uncomfortably low register. Elsewhere, the early stages of Stereo show up the limitations of microphone placement with sections of the rchestra washing across others (e.g. the teeth-chattering xylophone during "Alexander's Entry Into Pskov").

These are however merely minor dissatisfactions with interpretation. The music will always speak for itself.

The disc is rounded out with the first stereo recording of Khachaturian's "Violin Concerto". After Nevsky, it's a peculiar shift in tone being corralled into focusing on the one instrument. The piece is naturally a fantastic showcase, and is given virtuoso life by the early days in the career of Leonid Kogan. Like Nevsky, you can hear the occasional limitation of the early days of stereo - like the cough during "andante sostenuto"!

Paul Tonks


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