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Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 / Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra Import

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2-CD box set on Deutsche-Grammophon.
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Russian National Orchestra
  • Conductor: Mikhail Pletnev
  • Composer: Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (January 11, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Dg Imports
  • ASIN: B000023Y1I
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,502 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Aronne VINE VOICE on March 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As I write this review, I listen to Pletnev's recording of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. Before I say anything else, I must say this set is very well done indeed. But really, which beauty is the best? The following are the main contenders:

1. Dorati on Philips
2. Gergiev on Philips
3. Mogrelia on Naxos
4. Pletnev on Deutsche Grammophon
5. Previn on EMI
6. Rozhdestvensky on the BBC label

All of them qualify as good performances, but that alone is not all that recommends a CD. The buyer must also take into account the recording quality, price/economy, and completeness of score.

As for recording quality, Gergiev, Mogrelia, and Pletnev, all have the benefit of digital sound. According to what I've heard, the others are good as well (Dorati can be a bit too brassy here and there). Nothing is over-accentuated in Pletnev's clear recording for sure. Gergiev's sound is less refined without being raw. Mogrelia's atmosphere is less precise than Pletnev's, well up to Naxos standards if a bit cloudy.

Dorati, Mogrelia, & Previn fall into the bargain category, Previn being the least expensive of all. As for packaging and economy, Mogrelia, and Gergiev have the disadvantage of being spread onto three CDs. This factor raises the price of the Naxos disc a bit, and makes the Philips set the most expensive of the lot. Rozhdestvensky costs a bit more because his recording comes from England. As for Pletnev, the present set comes at full price, but may be purchased used for significantly less. Universal has reissued this recording on their "Critics' Choice" label at mid-price, but we have yet to see if it comes to us in the USA.

But on to the music itself.
Read more ›
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Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" is a staple of the ballet world. It is given a great performance here by Mikhail Pletnev and his Russian National Orchestra. Perhaps even better is that the entire ballet has been put on 2 discs. The equally fine recording by Gergiev was issued on 3 discs, so you will pay less with this set.
How can one describe this performance: electrifying comes to mind. This is great playing by the Russian National and highly recommended.
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I wouldn't think of buying multiple Sleeping Beauty recordings except for the ultra-cheap opportunities here at Amazon. Recently I acquired this set to compare to my pervious Dorati two-fer with the Cocertgebouw on Philips and the 3-disc set from Gergiev and the Kirov, also on Philips. How do they stack up?

Gergiev: First-rate conducting in excitable mode with an excellent orchestra but rather dull, tubby sonics. The only one on three discs at full price, unfortunately.

Dorati: A sprightly, often dramatic reading--but with lapses--and a world-class orchestra in bright analog sound (oddly, the recording sessions went from 1979 to 1981). A budget Duo.

Pletnev: An excellent orchestra led by a so-so conductor in a polished, somewht uneventful reading, in the best sound of all, from 1997. Pletnev's urbane approach is reminiscent of Ozawa and Dutoit, two other precise conductors who rarely catch fire. Two mid-priced CDs or part of a super-budget box set with Ozawa's underwhelming Nutrcracker and Swan Lake.

Musically, unless you value cautious sophistication, Pletnev's reading often feels too cool and smoothed over, but DG's warm, natural sound is very involving. Dorati brings us into the theater and keeps the proceedings eventful over the long stretch of this ballet. Gergiev is the only one who pushes the music into non-balletic territroy with a strong symphonic emphasis, but the merely serviceable sound is a let down, not to mention the high price.

I was surprised, not being a particular fan of Dorati's, that I become more involved in his performance than the other three. But each set has its points, and none is an outright clear winner. I only wish Decca would re-issue the classic Ansermet set, which I remember from LP as the best of all--but that was a long time ago, so who knows?
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I've noted how this Pletnev recording of Sleeping Beauty has been unduly derided and maligned. However, as a recorded performance, it's actually better than most people realise. I know that Pletnev as a conductor may give an impression of callowness, but this treatment of the complete Sleeping Beauty score is still good and holds up well. In fact I would rate this as better than his Ondine recordings of the other two Tchaikovsky ballet scores. This is a well-paced recording with a natural, expressive flow that hardly, if ever, sounds relentless. Pletnev is in full control of his orchestra and allows each instrumentalist to give out his best. The phrases are well-sculpted and the strings have a full-bodied sound essential to Tchaikovsky's music. Pletnev maintains the sweep of the score and characterises the individual numbers well. The set pieces are done well, notably the Rose Adagio and the Panorama, but I do wish that the Garland Waltz (i.e. Once Upon a Dream) had been just a bit more supple. The best parts of this recording are the individual dances for the Prince's retinue in Act Two, and also the pastiches of the old-school dances. In relation to the EMI Previn recording, the Decca Bonynge recording or even Dorati's Concertgebouw version, Pletnev measures up well when handling this score. Yes I know that other conductors are better able to handle the sweep of the overall score (think Järvi's recent Chandos recording in Bergen). However I would consider Pletnev's version better than Gergiev's version in terms of performance and sound quality. Gergiev's weak points come in some of the lyrical sections where the slow speeds impede the natural flow of the melodies. I have also been bothered by the poor sound quality that was given to that performance.Read more ›
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