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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ORIGINAL MA NON TROPPO, 25 Sep 2011
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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The originals of these performances date from 1978 and 1980, the remastering having been done in 1995. It will come as no great surprise to anyone that DG have done the job very well, something that is apparent from the very first note of Nevsky. This is a great sonorous chord, magnificently scored and magnificently reproduced for us here. As far as the recording goes all the way through, I found myself ticking off the pluses. The enunciation of the LSO chorus is admirably clear: not a hint of distortion in the cacophonies featured in The Battle on the Ice or (slightly less so) at various points in the Scythian Suite: the distant trumpet in Kije may or not be too distant for your taste but it is very clear; and the cornet that gets the famous tune for Kije's wedding (first cousin to Peter's tune in Peter and the Wolf) has the right brashness to it. Is the solo voice in The Field of the Dead slightly backward? Debatable again. This may well have been intended as realistic concert-hall balance rather than the forward in-your-ear engineering that was so popular as lately as the 70's.

How one is going to rate the performances will also depend on a few basic assumptions - as usual, I guess. For instance, do you stress over the issue of authentic Russian style? I can't say that I do, one of my main reasons being that authentic national styles do not stay authentic indefinitely, but develop and change over the decades. If nobody had told me who the artists were here I would certainly have known that I was not listening to Mravinsky and the Leningrad Phil. On the other hand, Gergiev and the Kirov these days do not sound much like Mravinsky either, indeed it is quite arguable that they sound more like Abbado and his western bands. If the music is good enough and the interpreters are good enough it will be a matter of the various cultures shedding different lights on the music, much as sculpture or architecture can be viewed in different lights. I actually believe that there is a danger in Abbado's training, and the danger is that it can all turn out too smoothed-over and homogenised. The risk is not that some new and foreign style is foisted on the music but that there can come to be a generalised one-style-fits-all. Anyway, this slight worry stayed at the back of my mind in listening to this disc, and I am not seriously in doubt of the 5-star rating.

The performances are thoroughly recommendable, particularly to newcomers to this music. The real masterpiece is the great cantata Alexander Nevsky, and as I have said already you will be given the right impression from note one. The only real question mark in my mind here is the mezzo-soprano soloist. She sings her sad song most affectingly and expressively, but this is not my idea of a great voice, and this is my idea of a little too much vibrato. I don't really have a clear opinion regarding how `highlighted' this solo should be, but what was obtruding itself on my thoughts was the solo in Brahms's Requiem as sung on the Tennstedt set by Jessye Norman. I like to think that this is not trying to rival that, because it would be no contest if it were.

The Scythian Suite goes just fine for me. This started life as a ballet score, reminiscent quite often of the Rite of Spring, which it may have been trying to emulate. In particular I like the tempo chosen for the Dance of the Spirits of Darkness. This is marked `allegro sostenuto', which says to me that it should not be too fast, and the galumphing effect is the way I like the piece to be handled.

Kije would be better spelt, Russian-style, as Kizhe, because that would make it clear how the nonexistent lieutenant came into existence through a simple error in word-division. The unusual `name' caught the eye of the Tsar, and from that point on people were panicking around to try to provide him with a life-story in case the Tsar asked any more questions. It all began as a film score apparently, and I should say that is all any of us need to know about the programme in order to enjoy the crisp and smart music.

Not many things are perfect, and no mild reservations that I may have about this set give me any misgiving in awarding all 5 stars. There is a liner-note, and it is rather a pity that it wastes so much of its brief column-allocation in trying to tell us what to admire. What I find admirable I have just tried to explain, and I can summarise it by saying that this is a well-engineered and highly professional reissue of well-directed and highly professional performances.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best Nevsky, 11 Oct 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
From the first ominous notes you anticipate a dramatic piece. While there is drama and tension, however, the dynamic mood of the work is optimistic and inspirational. A notable propaganda film prefiguring the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Prokofiev's score is a rousing appeal to the Russian people to unite and fight, not simply confident of victory, but imbued with a spiritual conviction in their destiny.
Though written to complement the film, Prokofiev's score is an eminently enjoyable piece in its own right - to be enhanced, perhaps, by a viewing of the film, giving you the ability to relate the visual and the musical dynamic. It is a work of rapidly flowing and fluctuating mood, its pace dictated by the crafting of the celluloid images, but its cerebral appeal no less intense for that - this is no flowing tide of romanticism but a work of abrupt scene change, sometimes dissonant, sometimes emotively inspirational (as when the choir sings), sometimes tense, at others calming, flowing easily, then even hinting at jazz!
The film, itself, has dated considerably - its acting is far too melodramatic and demonstratively over-the-top for modern, naturalistic tastes, and its editing and direction (yes, even by such a colossus as Eisenstein) can be a trifle obvious and heavy handed in places. Nevertheless, it remains a classic visual work which enhances and is enhanced by Prokofiev's score. Making allowances for changing tastes and technologies - anyone wishing to write music for the cinema or television should study 'Nevsky' and the collaboration between director and composer.
Moody, occasionally flamboyant, running from pure joy to sombre contemplation of pain and death, 'Alexander Nevsky' is an unapologetically Russian hymn. It evokes the heart and soul of Russia as thoroughly as Tolstoy or Dostoievsky. But it's a Russia in the balance, experiencing threat, anticipating possible annihilation, seeking to rediscover its roots and the strength to resist and triumph.
Although a 'Stalinist' work, Prokofiev is not simply penning propaganda. The undercurrent of emotion, felt throughout the work, is one of trust in and faith in the Russian people, not the Stalinist regime. It will be the people's blood which triumphs, not Stalin's! Ultimately, he is proclaiming that Russia will not only survive Hitler, it will survive Stalin! Eisenstein's film also seems to embody this dangerous message - it is the inherent strength and courage of the Russian people which will prevail, not political ideology! Stalin might dress himself in the patriotic cloak of Nevsky, but the music and film celebrate Russia and its peoples, not its dictator.
Abbado's version captures all this emotion and dynamism better than any other. Listen to it and watch the film, comparing the original score to Abbado's no less emotional, but perhaps more cerebral interpretation. The technical quality of Abbado's recording is, necessarily, excellent, and its coupling with the Scythian Suite and Lt.Kije gives you an excellent introduction to Prokofiev. To my mind the best version of Nevsky on the market, enhanced by the other two pieces - a dynamic, inspirational, and thoroughly enjoyable recording.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Stocking Fillers, 9 Mar 2010
By 
Mr. A. R. Boyes "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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I'm writing this review having only just purchased the cd and not having received it. Well I do have all the recordings on two separate LPs so having them all on one cd is a real bargain.

I decided to replace my current Nevsky cd under Previn because it was a perculiarly unfocussed performance with a rather distant and passive sounding chorus. They sing the right notes and very harmoniously - not exactly war music.

The Abbado recording is in bright clear sound with a fine performance by the LSO with Abbado seeming to have an instinctive feel for Prokofiev's music - it seems strange that two Italian conductors like Abbado and Muti sound like they have been born and bred with this music in their blood.

I have my reservations about the chorus - they don't always sound a match for the power of the orchestra. They lack the weight of a Russian chorus. It isn't anywhere near the problem that it is for Previn's recording, however.

What made me choose this recording over some other just as highly thought of recordings by Neeme Jarvi and Fritz Reiner is the brilliance of the coupling. I've never heard performances of the Scythian Suite or Lt Kije that come close to being as good as these by Abbado with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Scythian Suite is scintillating and colourful with Chicago famous brass section making this the most exciting and barbaric sounding work. Lt Kije is, if anything even better with the most wonderful string playing caught vividly in the Troika movement.

These two works receive almost unnaturally good recorded sound - the speakers shake at the bass drum entry in the first movement of Kije and the quite snare drum roll at the beginning and end of the piece ring out clear. Not a single orchestral detail is missed even in the very loud Scythian suite. Prokofiev's orchestrations can sometimes sound heavy and eccentric but the Scythian Suite sounds like a real showpiece of orchestration excellence not to mention the almost inhumanly brilliant playing across the whole orchestra. It is very much a young Prokofiev keen to show off his talent.

As lavishly praised as Abbado's Nevsky is, it is the other two recordings that steal the show for me: even so it's still terrific.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Moving Performance!, 6 Oct 2009
By 
Scriabinmahler (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a deeply felt, powerful performance of Prokofiev's magnificent cantata, Alexander Nevsky, and certainly one of the great recordings in Abbado's entire discography. LSO and the chorus perform with amazing commitment and vigour. Beautifully and spaciously recorded.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Nevsky and Kije, 11 Feb 2013
By 
John HOLLAS (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Scythian Suite; Lieutenant KijÚ (MP3 Download)
A great Abbado/DG recording of Alexander Nevsky, the Scythian Suite and Lieutenant Kije. The Scythian Suite has never been one of my favorites but buy it for the Nevsky and Kije in superb performances at mid-price.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An "Alexander Nevsky" Russian to the core..., 28 Feb 2010
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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...despite being performed by an Italian conductor with a British orchestra and choir. I fell in love with this version of "Alexander Nevsky" the first time I heard it and return to it again and again, despite the claims of other interpreters. The word "cantata" conjures up a rather more prim and sedate impression than applies to this epic score; this is music which needs grabbing by the scruff of the neck and I am pleased to observe that here the LSO seem inspired, as they often were, by Abbado's direction. I am particularly impressed by the way they capture a different mood and atmosphere to characterise the warring parties: the Crusaders sound suitably barbaric and alien such that the Western listener will find himself emotionally loyal to the Russian patriots, rather than its assorted enemies, whether or not they intone Latin and call themselves Christians. I am not a Russian speaker but the London Symphony Chorus sound convincing to me and I do not think their attack and energy can be faulted. Some might prefer a younger, more vulnerable-sounding singer than Elena Obratsova, but her beautiful, haunting singing as singing per se is mightily impressive. To me, she embodies both the soul of a nation in mourning and the proud grief of a single woman who will die an old maid.

The searing, keening wails which evoke the devastation caused by the Mongol hordes in the opening bars are marvellously chilling; similarly, the fear and tension Abbado generates in the opening of "The Battle on the Ice" is quite extraordinary; you do not need to have seen Eisenstein's film to picture these scenes. The immediate emotional impact and appeal of this music make it an ideal introduction to Prokofiev, all the more so when coupled with two such contrasting works as the "Scythian" and "Lieutenant Kijé" suites, here played superbly (the wry, gentle charms of the latter serving to balance the wildness of the other two works). This is music which transcends any crude attempt to categorise it merely as a film score or propaganda. Most preceding reviews chime with mine; I simply do not understand the one or two dissenting voices who find it "bloodless" and label the sound "a little lifeless". If anything, the DG analogue sound is a little over-bright but it matches the young Abbado's taut, thrilling interpretation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow what a recording!, 31 Aug 2013
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J. campbell - See all my reviews
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Only bought this for Lieutenant Kije, but was blown away by the Alexander Neveky soundtrack. Have seen the film in the past, but this modern recording brings out the power of the music and the singing is glorious. A best buy, would like to see a concert version.

Just listened to the Enemy of God section- LOL - makes great Star Trek fighting music, Klingons ahead.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genius sometimes catches you, 23 April 2013
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It's actually the second time I buy this album .
On my original version the Lieutenant Kijé suite was damaged .
Beautiful choirs , and modern style ... a captivating experiment !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great!, 7 Mar 2013
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A very relaxing and uplifting piece of music. This particular CD has always had a Christmas feel for me and I always play it over the festive period.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bargain basement territory., 19 Jun 2012
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What more can you ask for? Two essential classics, well performed by world class performers at a bargain price with good sound as well. I would recommend the recording to those who would like to get to know the other bits of Kije. Alexander Nevsky then comes as a welcome bonus. Throw in the suite and we're in bargain basement territory.
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Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Scythian Suite; Lieutenant KijÚ
Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Scythian Suite; Lieutenant Kijé by Adolph Herseth and Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado and Elena Obraztsova and London Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra
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