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Ivan the Terrible: Concert Sce

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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Can't stomach the tempi... June 27 2010
By J. Takis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
First, a few kind words. This is a well-recorded, competently performed album. The source material is very strong, of course -- Prokofiev's "Ivan The Terrible" is a powerhouse of a score in any incarnation. Christopher Palmer's restructuring of the material as a "concert scenario" is mostly an improvement, in my opinion, over the "oratorio-with-narration" form. I largely approve of his choices of what to trim, what to expand, and how to sequence it. I do wish the extended final coda heard in many recordings of the Stasevich arrangement had been retained, but that's a relatively minor complaint.

A more serious problem for me is the tempi. The album as a whole seems out of balance. I can sort of stomach the breakneck "Overture" ... but the deathly slow pace of "Murder in the Cathedral" is just excruciating. It sounds like it's at least HALF the original tempo, transforming an inexorable, doom-laden piece into something plodding and ineffectual. This is a key cue, the dramatic climax of the score -- to restore it at full-length to the concert adaptation is a VERY good idea, and had the potential to really elevate this recording. But to miss the mark so badly in execution drags down my rating of the total package into "dislike" territory. I've had issues with Jarvi's tempi before (his reading of Prokofiev's the "Stone Flower" in suite form, for example, seems sluggish to my ears), but this just killed it for me.

So if you're looking for a good concert version of Prokofiev's "Ivan" sans narrator, I regret that I can't recommend this one. Instead, I heartily endorse Slatkin's tremendous recording with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which used to be available on Vox as a 2-CD set including the "Alexander Nevsky" cantada and the "Lt. Kije" suite. For the full, restored film score, I'm partial to the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra version conducted by Fedoseyev, available on Nimbus.

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