Valery Gergiev – DGG B00100104-02, 76:15 (Distrib. Universal) ****:
The indefatigable Valery Gergiev, having led Mariinsky Theatre performances of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake for the first time in his artistic assumption in 1996 of the Mariinsky Theatre, decided to inscribe the troupe’s version of the suite (28 May-4 June 2006), some 30 selections that incorporate much of Acts I and II, without, however, including the most famous oboe solo scene except in passing references from the music itself. [It’s also available as a double-CD complete score, plus as a DGG video DVD…Ed.]
The audio-friendly realization proves lushly linear, more in the literalist tradition of Eugene Ormandy and Leopold Stokowski than of say, Leonard Bernstein, who took the liberty to repeat the sweet melody of the Spanish Dance. The crisp articulation of the strings–which includes some wonderful interplay from Kirill Terentiev, violin and Zenon Zalitsailo, cello–harp, winds, and brass soon achieves a glorious momentum to be envied for sheer virtuoso power. The cornet pyrotechnics for the Neapolitian Dance come courtesy of Sergei Krychkov. The Hungarian Dance (Csardas) opens in stately fashion but quickly evolves into a Dionysian frenzy, followed by a no less hysterical Mazurka. The last five sections devote themselves to the Black Swan Pas de Deux from the Act II ballroom scene, opening with the Valse and Andante variation, whose violin solo plays like a meditation from an under-developed concerto. Clarinet and bassoon dominate the brief Variation II, a quirky gavotte with peasant sensibilities; the harp, flute, chimes, and strings provide a serenade for Variation IV; and the Coda literally leaps and pirouettes across our mental stage in glorious, triumphant colors.
— Gary Lemco