Raymond S. Tuttle
International Record Review
, November 2003
Dmitry Yablonsky's big, lusty Alexander Nevsky will satisfy any collector just getting started in the DVD-Audio medium. The recording, while cavernous, is decidedly spectacular, and no one need complain that the interpretation and the execution are too refined. The conductor gets through the cantata in 35'05", which makes this one of the faster Nevskys I've encountered. 'The Crusaders in 'Pskov' gallops along in 5'46" (versus Claudio Abbado's 6'40" and Thomas Schippers's 7'28"), and 'Alexander's Entry into Pskov' is hardly less precipitous (3'43" versus 4'45" and 4'39"). The resulting reading is short on menace and pageantry, but breathlessly exciting in compensation. Mezzo-soprano Irina Gelahova has a dark timbre, yet she is clearly a maiden in mourning, not someone's mother (unlike Abbado's Elena Obraztsova). The Stanislavsky Chorus is on a lower level than the orchestra and the mezzo. It scoops into notes and approximates too much of Prokofiev's choral writing. There's no denying that it has spirit, howerver; the aura of a soccer match is never far away. Schippers trumps all competition, I think, with a reading that is brutal yet not sloppy.
Pushkiniana is thin gruel next to Nevsky. Gennadi Rozhdestvensky assembled its seven numbers from aborted Pushkin-related stage and film projects - The Queen of Spades,Eugene Onegin and Boris Godunov. This suite reminds us that even good composers such as Prokofiev were unable to sit around and wait for inspiration to come, given the social and political conditions in the Soviet Union. Similarly, Prokofiev's take on Hamlet is tepid compared to Shostakovich's film score. The disc ends strongly with a rough-housing excerpt from Ivan the Terrible.
As with other DVD-Audio discs I've seen, it's best to turn your monitor off once you've gotten the music cued up. Each track is accompanied by a 'title card' (shades of the silent movies) whose garishly colourful but indistinct background art provides a 'What is that?' distraction. The booklet (and jewel-case) are needlessly super-sized - I suppose the powers behind DVD-Audio want to reaffirm that purchasers are getting something special from this medium. And yes, the engineering is wonderful, but I'm not convinced that CDs are outclassed. The annotations are functional.