Rozhdestvensky = TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker, Act II; SHOSTAKOVICH: The Bolt–Suite, Op. 27a; STRAVINSKY: Scenes de Ballet – BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Gennady Rozhdestvensky/ BBC Legends – BBC

by | Apr 21, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Rozhdestvensky = TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker, Act II; SHOSTAKOVICH: The Bolt–Suite, Op. 27a; STRAVINSKY: Scenes de Ballet – BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Gennady Rozhdestvensky/ BBC Legends

BBC L 4204-2 77;32 (Distrib. Koch) ****:

More absolutely idiomatic readings of Russian fare from Bolshoi Ballet veteran Gennady Rozhdestvensky (b. 1931) and the BBC, here sounding as brilliantly Russian as can be, the winds, harp, and battery opening at the Magic Castle on the Sugar Mountain (18 August 1987), home of the elegant celesta of the Sugar Plum Fairy. In concert performance, without dancers, Rozhdestvensky is unimpeded by physical limitations, as it were, and he can sail into the stratosphere when he so chooses. This is not to say that his phrasings are not eminently vocal, Russian arias transposed into E.T.A. Hoffmann’s conceits of an embattled and ennobled childhood.

The Divertissement opens with trumpets double-tongued in Neapolitan and Spanish glory. One can feel the veils waft in the air during the Arabian Dance. Great bassoon work to complement the high winds in Tea, the Chinese Dance. Savage momentum in the Trepak, followed by a diaphanous Danse des mirlitons. More unbuttoned energy for the Dance of the Clowns. The Valse des fleurs pulsates with pantheistic delight, as though we were ourselves recalling how we first fell under its eternal spell. The ensuing Pas de deux demonstrates what a simple descending scale can do when a genius attends to it. The final waltz achieves just the kind of apotheosis that sends everyone scurrying to buy presents to place under the Christmas Tree, as if this disc were not enough.

Rozhdestvensky programmed music from Shostakovich’s ironic ballet The Bolt on the same concert as The Nutcracker. In four movements, the suite (1931) depicts a frustrated factory worker who decides, a la Chaplin in Modern Times, to throw a monkey wrench into the guts of the big machines. Irony and circus music combine in splashy effects, especially those that show off the battery of the BBC. The Polka, the Dance of the Bureaucrats, might have inspired either Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil or the Keystone Cops. The Intermezzo comes off as a pompous gavotte with foolish string slides and warbling woodwinds. The last two chords elicit a collective chuckle from the audience. The Drayman’s Dance is heavy-handed Moussorgsky, nose in the air.

Stravinsky composed his Scenes de Ballet in 1944 for Broadway impresario Billy Rose. The music as performed by Rozhdestvensky (29 April 1981) has an angular, incremental style that hints at Apollon Musagete, but the sound is less dry, more layered. Some colors are quite Petrushka-like. Three pantomimes of different lengths infiltrate the nine sections of the piece, which features some antiphons for horns that prove notable. Taut, plastic strands interweave into a neoclassic fabric, occasionally touched by sentiments that warrant being called romantic.

– Gary Lemco

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