Of all of the full-length ballets in the classical repertoire, I share George Balanchine's opinion that Sleeping Beauty is the finest and that a definitive staging will probably exist only in one's imagination.
I have collected ALL of the performances issued since the George Weldon mono recording from the mid-1950s, including the studio recording that followed this series of live BBC concerts (long out of print on Eurodisc). What makes this performance stand out is the sense of 'theater' that permeates every note. A conductor such as Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (who has led this work countless times) knows instinctively how each number need to be paced and set apart from each other. This is not just an academic exercise (or worse yet, a 'canned' performance done in the sterile environment of a studio away from the audience, dancers, and 'smell of greasepaint'); it is an approach that is essential to a buildup of dramatic tension which in turn makes each act seem like a logical sequence of pieces instead of a hodgepodge of tunes.
Forgive me if I sound like a zealot, but there is something conveyed in a live performance that makes it distinctive and unique. In the hands of a quality orchestra (and the BBC SO of 1979 was certainly one of the best at the time), there is a spontanaeous, fresh quality to the playing that makes up for the acceptable recording quality (excellent FM stereo quality if lacking in depth, and the occasional cough or audience rustle).
It is exactly this sense of anticipation, drama and direction that I found lacking in the DGG/Pletnev performance. There, the Russian National Orchestra may have the music in their blood, but Pletnev was not a ballet conductor at the time of the recording, nor was the orchestra one that had been together long enough to allow them to come together as a true ensemble, and there is no way to instill that sense without experiencing it firsthand. Owners of that performance (myself included) can rest content knowing that there is nothing missing in terms of technical or recording polish...but if they should want to know why Sleeping Beauty is considered the most special of 'ballet' music, they should investigate this performance.
The less than enthusiastic initial reviewer of this performance criticized the cuts in certain pieces (he wasn't too enamored of the performance as well). While I too prefer hearing all the music written by the composer, I did not find the cuts noticeable or detracting in terms of the music's overall flow.
I also don't know what recording he was listening to (it sure did not sound like it was the same as mine!), but what is most important to me is the sense of magic contained within the music, and ballet enthusiasts will miss out on something truly distinctive if they do not listen to this classic, peerless performance of ballet's truly finest full-length composition.