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Ivan the Terrible - Complete Film Music.
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Fedoseyev with Irina Chistjakova (contralto); Dmitry Stephanovich (bass); Yurlov State Capella; Children's Choir of Studio Vesna.
Nimbus NI5662/3 [DDD] [two discs] [99'35]

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Prokofiev's music for Ivan the Terrible dates from the same period as his opera War and Peace (early to mid forties). This is the first compete recording of the music from Eisenstein's film, and thus immediately possesses an urgent musicological interest. The booklet notes reflect this: they are extensive (English only, so no translations to take up space) and helpful, tracing the work's genesis, reproducing some of Eisenstein's drawings and providing both synopsis and musical commentary.

Collectors may be familiar with Abram Stasevich's Oratorio after the film score (available in several versions, including the charismatic Gergiev on Philips 456 645-2). Hearing this set is another experience, however, one brought to life by Fedoseyev and his Moscow forces, who seem to play with an almost evangelical zeal. Young Ivan's March receives a relentless performance, for example, and provides an apt contrast to The Song of the Old Nurse for Little Ivan, sung with echt-Russian creaminess by Chistjakova.

Fedoseyev is happy to point up correspondences with Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov: especially in Song of the Oprichniki (CD2, track 11), a close relation to Varlaam's By the walls of Kazan the mighty fortress. But there is no mistaking Prokofiev's own individual voice running through the score. Fedoseyev is also a master of the cumulative, dramatic scene. The extended, dark Ivan pleads with the Boyars is a particularly striking example of this. He also has no shortage of breadth and nobility when required.

Choral contributions, totally in the full-bodied Russian tradition, are notable for their intensity: Eternal Remembrance is particularly effective because it is given a cappella. The chorus achieves remarkably convincing patriotic fervour in Sofrony's Cherubic Song.

The recording is up-front, although such close miking does not seem at odds with the larger-than-life events and emotions being portrayed.


Colin Clarke