Notes & Reviews:
This CD features star conductor Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra with The Nutcracker (complete ballet music) by Peter Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker is an absolute masterpiece of Russian orchestral music, and perhaps the crowning achievement of Tchaikovsky's artistic output. It benefits from enormous popularity worldwide and among a wide range of audiences. Mikhail Pletnev is recognized as a reference performer of Tchaikovsky's music, and in particular of The Nutcracker; his unrivalled piano transcriptions of Nutcracker Suite were selected for the 1998 Anthology "Great Pianists of the 20th Century" (Philips Classics).
The Pletnev performance's 93-minute timing made me suspect that a lot of the numbers were going to be presented in a relaxed, sympathetic way and, although the performance does not lack brilliance when the music calls for it, the general impression I get is of a conductor who can almost envision the dancers on stage before him, loves the music, has an idea how it should go, and isn't trying to impress me. Like nearly all the recordings it's well played, and more so than many of them has warm, plush sound to support the performance.
Tchaikovsky's magical story comes to life as Pletnev reasserts his reputation as an outstanding ballet conductor. The delightfully detailed playing from the orchestra brings these enchanting characters to life, in a well paced, elegant narrative.
this work is a genuine charmer, and it is crucial not to overwhelm it with too big a sound or attempt to give it profundity that it does not possess. Pletnev clearly understands this: he lets the first act unfold with as much drama as it contains, emphasizing the many elegant instrumental touches that Tchaikovsky brought to the score, and then he simply makes the second act - essentially a long series of characteristic dances - into a celebration. The music is so familiar that there is very little new to be heard in it. To his credit, Pletnev does not attempt to extract additional meanings or a higher level of importance from a score that is short for a ballet and was not even intended to be performed by itself... The good thing about Pletnev's restrained approach is that it lets the excellent playing of the orchestra shine through and allows the music to flow naturally and without any pomposity whatsoever. The ballet becomes a sort of sumptuous divertissement filled with gorgeous melodies that flow over each other unceasingly from start to finish - not exactly what is intended in a stage work, perhaps, but a very pleasant way to hear this particular much-loved standard of the Romantic era.
Daily Telegraph (UK)
The Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev highlights the delicacy of Tchaikovsky's orchestration. Even the more solemn moments have a wit and irreverence about them, as if the players are smiling to themselves as they play.
Fans of the Nutcracker Suite who are looking for more of the same type of music need look no further than the complete ballet, which contains almost four times as much music as the eight-movement suite. The suite includes much of the most striking music, but the entire ballet is a lovely, lyrical piece that should appeal to fans of graceful Romantic orchestral music. Mikhail Pletnev, leading the Russian National Orchestra and the Vesna Children's Choir, delivers an elegant account of the score. The orchestra plays with dazzling precision and a warm, round tone, and beautifully conveys the predominant mood of magical, gossamer delicacy. Although this is certainly music with which the orchestra is intimately familiar, there is nothing routine about their playing. Ondine's sound is immaculate, full, and nicely detailed.
Classic FM Magazine
There's no hint of serving up old or reheated fare from the Russian National Orchestra under founder and artistic director Pletnev, despite the fact that this must be grindingly familiar ground. Together they more than meet the challenge of lifting the entire score into a coherent whole...The delightfully detailed playing from the orchestra brings these enchanting characters to life, in a well paced, elegant narrative.
On this evidence, Mikhail Pletnev remains one of the most intelligent and stylish Tchaikovsky conductors around...The Nutcracker enshrines another formidably assured display that repeatedly has one grasping at the wondrous skill with which Tchaikovsky handles his forces. Once again, the playing of the RNO is past praise in its unruffled, articulate composure.
BBC Music Magazine
I love the slow burn of Pletnev's Christmas-tree transformation, the nimbleness of the battle between the Nutcracker's forces and the mice, and the strangeness of his Snowflake Waltz...the RNO woodwind have plenty of character throughout, and are brightly lit by Ondine's vivid recording; prepare for an earthquake in the big, symphonic Act 1 climaxes, the sphere in which Pletnev truly excels.
Recording information: Mosfilm Recording Studios, Studio 1, Moscow (03/2011).
Unless you want the "Nutcracker" ballet performed by your favorite orchestra or conductor, this version is as fine as any, and certainly the Ondine version offers an excellent performance, recorded in startling clarity with splendid stereo sound.
Recommended, if you're in the market for a new version.
Submitted on 11/20/11 by Ted Wilks
Submitted on 11/21/11 by danrubin06
Works DetailsTchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich : Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
- Conductor: Mikhail Pletnev
- Ensemble: Russian National Orchestra
- Running Time: 84 min. 6 sec.
- Period Time: Romantic
- Form: Ballet
- Written: 1892