Top critical review
138 people found this helpful
Don't Let The Word Kirov Fool You!!!
on September 29, 2006
Anyone who thinks that this recording of "The Nutcracker" is on any level exceptional is out of their mind. There are a zillion recordings of "The Nutcracker", whether complete or of excerpts, and for ballet theatre many of these recordings are useless. Alot of famous symphonic conductors have had a hand at recording ballet music, and at least to ballet dancers (the people they were written for) mostly without success - for example Seiji Ozawa conducting "Swan Lake" is like Adam Sandler performing Shakespeare. What makes one a great conductor of symphonic music does not necessarily make one a good conductor of ballet music, and only a very small percentage of the conductors of any recording of "The Nutcracker" or any other ballet have ever conducted a live ballet . As far as I am concerned only a ballet conductor should conduct ballet music.
As a ballet dancer, historian, and a collector of 19th century ballet music, I must say that this is the most appalling recording I have ever heard of "The Nutcracker". Mind you, it is not because of the quality of performance from the orchestra, but of the way the music is handled by Gergiev when conducting so sacred an orchestra as the Kirov/Mariinsky. I find it interesting that Victor Fedotov, perhaps the greatest conductor of ballet music in modern times (who was still alive when this recording was produced) conductor of nearly every ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theatre for over 30 years, was not the one chosen to conduct this recording. Would it not make sense to have the ballet conductor conduct the ballet orchestra in a recording of the ballet music???
The fact that this ballet was all jam-packed onto one CD should be a dead give away as to how horribly raced through and edited the music. This recording has rushed, mathematically maintained tempi (the usual defect with recorded ballet music in the hands of a symphonic conductor), an over bearing brass section, edited passages (optional repeats) - the potential the music has that usually only a ballet conductor can give it is completely gone, as the music is in no way allowed to breathe.
One reviewer on this page says "Tchaikovsky is said to have written the work originaly in a faster tempo than is usualy performed. However, over the years, dancers complained about the brisk pace at which they were to perform. And so, the tempo is now played slower." This statement is horribly incorrect. "The Nutcracker" was written as all 19th century ballet was written - to order - Tchaikovsky was given instructions on what to write by Marius Petipa, and the original performance score does not specify tempo with words. For example "allegro moderato", etc. is nowhere to be found in the variations, as ballet music of the period was played at the preferred speed of the dancer.
Gergiev's recording of Tchaikovsky's original score for "The Sleeping Beauty" doesn't hold a candle to Victor Fedotov's recording of the Kirov Ballet performance score (with all of the proper modifications one only hears in performance).
Whatever Gergiev's strengths are as a conductor of opera or symphony, they are sorely lacking in his conducting of ballet music (Gergiev rarely conducts ballets at the Mariinsky, and it isnt his favorite thing to do) and this recording of "The Nutcracker", just like Gergiev's recording of "The Sleeping Beauty" shows this.
The best recording of "The Nutcracker" you can get is by Richard Bonynge with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. He conducts exactly as the music would be for the stage, and the recording is well balanced, without one section drowning out another. Also there is Sir Chalres Mackares's recording with the London Symphony for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's movie version of "The Nutcracker". Another is by Eugene Ormandy with the Philedelphia Orchestra, though only excerpts.