Our series of historic radio recordings from Russian archives has proved very popular all over the world. Many people have chosen performance over recording quality. – which, when necessary, we have improved optimally. – Thus allowing themselves the infinite joy of listening to legendary performers. The musicians in this large set are all (living) legends indeed: pianists, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Lazar Berman, Evgeny Kissin; violinists David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Viktor Tretiakov and Gidon Kremer; cellists Rostropovich and Daniel Shafran. Solo works, chamber music and works with orchestra are included.
Claudio Abbado has a highly-developed feeling for Prokofiev's sound world. (…) it is Abbado that casts the strongest spell. Throughout both concertos textures are more delicately coloured, dynamic nuances scrupulously observed and there are feather-light string Sonorities. (…) the engineers produce a beautifully refined and homogeneous balance and (save for the fact that the soloist is a shade larger than life, albeit not so much as Perlman for HMV), it is very impressive indeed. There is plenty of space round the instruments and the sound is truthful.
He is without doubt one of the greatest conductors of our time, and Volume 1 of his recordings from Brilliant Classics allows the listener to experience the extraordinary genius of Rozhdestvensky over a characteristically wide and varied range of repertoire.
Given its premiere by The Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles, Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet has become a signature work for the Company, enjoying great popularity around the world. From the outset, the production teems with life and colour as the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets go about their daily business in vibrant crowd scenes. But Romeo and Juliet take centre stage for those great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene, the morning after the wedding and the final devastating tomb scene. Although The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet over 400 times, each performance and pairing is subtly different and Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli are utterly captivating in the title roles.
Since pianist Yuja Wang and conductor Gustavo Dudamel count among Deutsche Grammophon’s young superstars, it was inevitable that they collaborate on disc. In the Rachmaninov Third Concerto Wang’s tendency to reverse accents and make sudden pianissimo plunges at certain climactic moments borders on mannerism (what’s with that momentum-breaking comma right before the first-movement development section Allegro?), but the piano part’s swirling textures benefit from Wang’s fanciful voicings, imaginative rubatos, and frisky, dead-on accurate fingerwork.
The famous Russian director Sergei Eisenstein held Prokofiev the film composer in the highest regard, and to couple their two celebrated collaborations, Ivan the Terrible and Alexander Nevsky, in a two-disc set is therefore entirely appropriate. Ivan the Terrible, however, is a problematic score. Assembled by Abram Stassevich after the composer’s death, the oratorio lacks the large-scale balances and tensions of Prokofiev’s own Nevsky cantata, relying on narration to hold the structure together. This substantial English version by Michael Lankester, intended to ‘compensate for the lack of visual image’, is well projected by Christopher Plummer. Rostropovich directs a vivid performance of Alexander Nevsky, and only the rich tone of Russian voices is lacking. The LSO plays brilliantly, while the recording does full justice to one of Prokofiev’s finest scores.