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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More fun than ........................, 8 Jan 2010
This review is from: Shostakovich - The Nose (Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus/Gergiev) Includes full libretto in both Russian and English (Audio CD)
Shostakovich was 22 when he wrote this and it is very much a young man's work, brimming with energy and ideas. There are no holds barred, no kowtowing to the Soviet establishment, nor the international music establishment for that matter. Nowhere is there a sense that here is an apprentice learning his trade. The writing is supremely confident, original and adept without over-reaching itself. It is the Shostakovich of the First Symphony and First Piano Concerto rather than the Second or Third Symphonies.

There is a breathtaking range of sonorities, from the famous percussion intermission (a real speaker workout, this) to a depiction of the interior of Kazan Cathedral, and the recording does them full justice. In fact, this is technically one of the best recordings I've heard in years.

The libretto, based on Gogol, is one of those dream/nonsense scenarios beloved of eastern European artists but requiring a little adjustment for our tastes. If you've read Victor Pelevin's "The Clay Machine Gun" or know Martinu's Julietta, you'll know what I mean. Think 'Goonshow' set to music. Performances, from soloists, chorus, orchestra alike, are superb. It sounds like everyone is having a ball, Gergiev included. The performance of Vladislav Sulimsky as Kovalev, frustrated owner of the Nose, is particuarly noteworthy.

What the work is 'about' is anybody's guess and the accompanying booklet is of limited help. It is also - one of two minor quibbles - written in that eye-taxing script common to cd operas in the years when most of them used miniaturised versions of the notes originally issued with the vinyl version.

The other quibble is that this isn't a dvd. Photographs in the booklet make you slaver for a video version. No matter, it's doubtful whether the recording, if and when this is issued on dvd, could equal what we have here.

Well worth investigating for opera lovers ready to venture off the beaten track, maybe even rock aficionados sceptical that there is such thing as unbuttoned classical music.
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Location: Vancouver, Canada

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