Evgeny Svetlanov

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

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In every way but one, this is as brilliantly played and as delightfully charming a performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet as has ever been recorded. Evgeny Svetlanov was a master conductor who understood the composer and his music like few others, and his direction here is full of emotional warmth and sympathetic insights. Plus, Svetlanov recognizes that the Nutcracker is a dramatic ballet, albeit one aimed at children, and he knows exactly how to keep things moving irresistibly forward. Here, Act I actually works as a story because Svetlanov doesn't let it go slack, and Act II works as a divertissement because he balances color with rhythm. With the USSR Symphony Orchestra's opulent playing and Melodiya's surprisingly lush stereo sound, this performance would be a first recommendation except for one thing: the children's chorus in the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" sounds much too far away from the orchestra, so much so that, as lovely as they are, they sound more like the Sirens in Debussy's nocturnes than children. This is, however, a small flaw and those who love the work should not be put off by it.

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