Strictly speaking this is a recording a a film score suite and a cantata derived from a film score but these are perhaps among the finest examples of film score music. The earliest piece here is actually Prokofiev’s first commission, the 1934 Lieutenant Kije. This film (released in the US under the title of “The Czar Sleeps”) is a satire/comedy film based on a novella. The score is by itself very tuneful and entertaining and deserves to be heard more often.
The larger work here, Alexander Nevsky (1938), the cantata extracted one year later from the film score by the composer is of course the score to one of the early masterpieces of cinema. The film is the slightly fictionalized account of the reign and military prowess of one Alexander Nevsky (1200-1263). It is without doubt one of the most successful pairings of image and sound at its time. One need only listen to a snippet of John Williams’ score for the battle on the ice planet in the Star Wars series to hear the homage he gives to this score.
Both works here receive a very fine performance and recording by the Utah Symphony conducted by Thierry Fischer. He is assisted by the Utah Symphony Chorus, the University of Utah A Capella Choir, and the University of Utah Chamber Choir under the direction of Barlow Bradford as well as soloist, mezzo soprano Alisa Koslova. Fischer’s tenure would seem to be the surest and most successful since that of the much lauded and beloved Maurice Abravanel. In addition we have here a recording by the reliably high quality Reference Recordings label.
Many collectors will already have a recording of Alexander Nevsky but this performance and recording, along with the inclusion of the earlier film score make this a marvelous addition to any library. And if you have one of those fabulous sound systems you will hear the intricate detail of the recording and feel those bass drum thumps most viscerally. This is an exciting release of exceptional quality on all fronts.