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CD Review

Serge Prokofieff

Harmonia Mundi HMU901523
  • Cantata "Alexander Nevsky" Op. 78 (1938)
  • Suite "Lieutenant Kijé" Op. 60 (1934)
Ewa Podleś, Mezzo-soprano
Latvian State Choir
Lille National Orchestra/Jean-Claude Casadesus
Harmonia Mundi France HMC901523 - 58min
(Reissued as Naxos 8.557725)
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The Lille Orchestra plays exceptionally well, as in their previous recording of La Mer, but Casadesus consistently underplays the great drama of Nevsky. In consequence, the usually harrowing 'Battle on the Ice' sounds like little more than a mild disagreement between friends. The quieter moments are the most successful – especially Casadesus's noble reading of II or Ewa Podleś's gorgeously sung and deeply affecting VI. But the great patriotic choruses in IV and VII are restrained and understated. Schippers gave us the most thrilling Nevsky on records, but it's now tragically out of print, as are the dynamic versions of Rostropovich and Chailly.

After a lively and colorful reading of I, Casadesus settles in for a dull, routine, and humorless Kijé Suite. Both works were recorded in concert. This may account for the conductor's reticence as well as Harmonia Mundi's poorly balanced recording. The chorus is often swamped by the orchestra in Nevsky, while several instruments are badly off-mike in Kijé. Audience noise intrudes occasionally, and there's a surprising amount of hiss for a digital recording.

Copyright © 1998, Tom Godell

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