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Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky & Lt. Kije

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 9, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B000003CUA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,944 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
André Previn knows his way around these two very fine Prokofiev works, each being extracted from film scores yet from very different mindsets of the composer. 'Alexander Nevsky' was first supported by Stalin when it was written/filmed (perhaps explaining why the score is less 'modern' than most of Prokofiev's works), then withdrawn as inappropriate while WW II was brewing and finally returning as a national anthem when the Germans invaded Russia in 1941. It is that kind of a work - much Russian soul in the choral writing and much warring effort in the orchestral portions.

Previn conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale with Christine Cairns as the important soloist in this 1986 recording. The chorus may not have the dark depth of the Russian choruses on the many other recordings, but they make up for it in technique and commitment to the score where others blast their way through it. It is a very moving account of the 'cantata'.

The lighter, comic side of Prokofiev is present in his 'Lieutenant Kijé' suite, also a film score. Previn takes his time to highlight the many solo instances that add to the fine writing that makes this Prokofiev work a perennial favorite among audiences of all ages. The orchestral sound is polished and rich and the recording is well engineered. This is a fine recording of two disparate Prokofiev pieces to add to the collection. Grady Harp, December 06
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Format: Audio CD
This early digital recording of Andre Previn leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, at the time, the Los Angeles Master Chorale langouring between the leadership of the great Roger Wagner and Paul Salamunovich, is a pretty good representation of Prokofiev’s reworked cinematic scores. The moody and sullen Alexander Nevsky Cantata is in tough recorded competition with some Russian musicians, an early Gergiev on Philips who is just as downcast as the music, Yablonsky on the budget Naxos, and Temirkanov on RCA with the complete score. Abbado, Jarvi, Reiner in English, and this (and the earlier) Previn represent the outsider’s club, who can’t necessarily compete with the authentic “Russian-ness”, but give musical accounts of this work in good sound. The orchestra and chorus are represented well here on record (as with many of Previn’s collaborations with Los Angeles and Telarc in the 80’s) and avoid the digital harshness of his competitors at the time.

Lt. Kije is the comical to Nevsky’s seriousness, and represents Prokofiev’s superb gift of melody which, if born 50 years earlier, would have given the nationalist composers a run for their money.
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Format: Audio CD
Two of Sergei Prokofiev's best-known compositions of the 1930s were his massive score for the Sergei Eisenstein epic "Alexander Nevsky", and his smaller one for the ironic bureaucratic satire "Lieutenant Kije." Despite both being originally produced as essentially pro-Soviet tracts to please the Russian politburo, particularly that sage of stern political correctness Joseph Stalin, both works ("Nevsky" in its cantata form) have maintained their populairty. And both of these works are given world-class performances in this 1986 recording by Andre Previn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The Alexander Nevsky Cantata (which is all most people heard of Prokofiev's score until the last few years) is smashingly sung by the Los Angeles Master Chorale along with Scottish-born mezzo-soprano Christine Cairns. And Previn, whose time as music director was just too short, conducts the L.A. Philharmonic brilliantly in the cantata and the Lieutenant Kije Suite, particularly in its celebrated "Troika" movement (whose main theme was borrowed by Greg Lake for his 1975 Christmas standard "I Believe In Father Christmas"). It's not surprising that Previn should be so successful here; he is no stranger to Prokofiev's music, having recorded both pieces with the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s. A highly recommended recording for lovers of 20th century Russian music in general and Prokofiev in particular.
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Format: Audio CD
Andre Previn is a great interpreter of Prokofiev's music. He recorded Alexander Nevsky twice, once in the 70's and again in 1987.

Some background: Previn's earlier recording with the London Symphony disappeared from the catalog by the '80s, when CDs were beginning to replace LPs. By the mid-'80s, Previn was Music Director in Los Angeles. As a subscriber, I really felt lucky to have Previn as the Music Director (after the great Giulini left). In 1987 they performed an innovative program, now much imitated, with the orchestra playing music live while the audience viewed a movie. For that concert they showed Eisenstein's famous film Alexander Nevsky while the LA Phil performed Prokofiev's soundtrack score, reconstructed for the concert. I attended that concert, and enjoyed the experience very much.

Previn and the LA Phil recorded this Nevsky on Telarc in conjunction with those concerts. This is a recording of the Cantata, however, not the reconstructed film score that accompanied the movie.

Ok, back to the present day: I enjoy the sound on this Telarc disc, but the earlier Previn recording of Nevsky, with the London Symphony, is a bit more exciting and involving.

In comparing the two Nevsky recordings, I find both orchestras are excellent and both choral groups and soloists are excellent. But I think the pacing in the later recording is influenced by the experience of accompanying the movie, it feels a bit stiff and deliberate by comparison to the earlier one.

Although the sound on this Telarc disc is superior to the earlier EMI recording, the remastered sound on the earlier Nevsky is still very good. When I listen to the older and newer recording side by side, I do like them both, but the older one is just more enjoyable for me.
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