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Label:
  Sony Classical - http://klassik.sonymusic.de/
Serial:
  SS 87711
Title:
  Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Schippers
Description:
  Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

New York Philharmonic
Westminster Choir
Thomas Schippers (conductor)
Track listing:
 
Genre:
  Classical - Orchestral
Content:
  Stereo/Multichannel
Media:
  Single Layer
Recording type:
  Analogue
Recording info:
 

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Reviews: 4 show all

Review by Dinko June 25, 2003 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
After LP releases and a short life on CD, Thomas Schippers' recording of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky makes its way onto SACD.
I have yet to encounter a better version of Alexander Nevsky.

All the elements contributing to a winning performances are here gathered.
Schippers' experience in opera and his musical flair make this Nevsky a mightier, and more powerful reading than most others. But chorus and orchestra don't just shout and play loudly - they seem to feel the music deep within. As cacophonous as Prokofiev's score can sometimes be, Schippers holds it all together.
The New York Philharmonic is notorious for its behaviour towards some conductors. But what counts here is talent, not personality. The players of the New York Philharmonic are simply put stupendous.

The Westminster Choir sings noisily, yet avoids the error made by others: shouting. Many bombastic recordings of Alexander Nevsky resort to a yelling chorus for their mighty. Not here. As noisy as the singing is, it rarely falls in the 'shouting' category.

An additional highlight is contralto Lili Chookasian. Usually a mezzo-soprano is used to sing "The Field of the Dead". Here Chookasian delivers the most dramatic version of the elegy I have heard so far. Her voice is deep and powerful. Schippers and the Orchestra accompany magnificently. The smooth and silky strings of the New York Philharmonic are just glorious.

Performance-wise, Alexander Nevsky has rarely (if ever) been equaled before or since Schippers' recording.

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition are the other work on the disc. This is a well-played, well-conducted, and well-recorded piece, but it just lacks that extra bit of excitement which would make it go from 'good' to 'great'. It's a nice filler, and I'm happy to have it, but Nevsky is the real treat here.

Sonically, this SACD is as good as it gets, I think. The recording dates from the early 1960's, yet could easily have been recorded today. In fact it sounds much better than the two most recent Alexander Nevsky discs (one by Gergiev on Philips, the other by Yablonsky on Naxos - both released in early 2003).

Original producer John McClure is to be commended for his work. As are remix producer Louise de la Fuente and engineer Richard King. Their combined work is a true sonic spectacular. With very deep bass and good upper registers. The overall sound is rather warm and pleasant, especially in the strings. The brass however has the right amount of bite. In many Nevsky recordings the orchestra is buried under the choir, here the orchestra/chorus and orchestra/soloist balances are perfect.

The multichannel mix is bolder than on many other classical SACDs. Though most of the music comes from the front, the rear speakers occasionally play an active role as well.

It just doesn't get any better.

Well... not quite. This is a single layer disc. A hybrid would have been better. As it stands, it is a superb disc which can only be enjoyed by those who can play it.

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Review by mwagner1962 May 25, 2005 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
At first, I was never planning on buying any single layer SACDs, as it was going to be some time before I bought my first SACD player and I did not want a disc that I could not play in the car. So for a good while, I bought only hybrid SACD's. Another reason I was not interested in any of the old CBS/Columbia/Sony SACD re-masters was that my experience with many of them back in my LP days was terrible.

HOWEVER, a good friend talked me into listening to this one day, and then I was hooked and had to have it. I used to have an old Telarc redbook of "Alexander Nevsky" (Previn and LA???) but that CD was a victim of several "culling's" of my CD library.

This recordings is simply top notch. It was way more than I ever would have expected from an old CBS/Columbia/Sony effort. Other than the fact that you can tell that this is not a modern recording, any signs of age (other than some hiss) problems ends there. I love the great sound, the superb soundstaging..everything one wants in a great recording. The chorus is well integrated in the sonic fabric and blend nicely with the orchestra. It is most satisfying to hear these older choir/orchestra recordings with such a nice balance between the two forces.

Since "Alexander Nevsky" is so rarely recorded (which is very sad indeed) I imagine that this recording will be my definitive SACD of this work for some time. If you do not know this work and love Prokofiev, then by all means, get it ASAP!!! Even if you are not familiar with Prokofiev, get this SACD anyway!! The Mussorgsky is just okay, and while it is played nicely, it is really overshadowed by the Prokofiev. My Reiner "Pictures" will still be my favorite over this one here..

Highly recommended!!!

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Review by lenw May 11, 2005 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I agree with everything Dinko said about the performance - it is truly a enjoyable listening experience. The SACD sonics are also very good with a wide and deep soundstage puntuated by extremely good imaging of the instruments and voices. My complaint with this SACD is that IMO it suffers from limited resolution, dynamic range, analog tape hiss, and at times a unrealistic high end. But considering this recording dates back to the early 60's it's a real treat both sonically and in terms of performance.

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Works: 2  

Modest Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. Ravel)
Serge Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky (Secular Cantata), Op. 78