As the new wave of Russian conductors takes hold, new versions of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker proliferate, especially at holiday time. This one, with Vladimir Jurowski leading the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia "Evgeny Svetlanov," doesn't seem at first to break any new ground. Jurowski's tempos and articulation are well within the tradition, but that's where the considerable charm of this recording begins. Russian interpretations are thought of as inward and subjective, but especially in the realm of ballet, there is another side of Russian music that's classical, perfectly drilled, Apollonian. That's what's on offer here, in a live recording where, despite the inevitable missteps, a sequence of perfectly executed moments coheres into a very satisfying performance. Jurowski keeps a tight rein on the "action scenes," and the more delicate passages are often extraordinary. Consider the perhaps unparalleled "Waltz of the Snowflakes," with its perfect balance of quiet instrumental elements. Harpist Nina Kupriyanova deserves special notice throughout in this greatest of all harp scores, and the performance as a whole has a way of drawing the listener in. Definitely a classic piece of Russian music-making that deserves a place on holiday shelves.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim