- Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
- Nutcracker, ballet, Op. 71
Valery Gergiev last recorded "The Nutcracker" ballet in 1998, and for those who bought his approach to the music, that version has remained a favorite. This new release, well recorded in SACD sound at the Mariinsky Theatre concert hall, offers the right blend of something new and something continued. The complete "Nutcracker" is a weightier, more symphony-like work than the familiar "Suite," which extracts the tunes from a substantially larger structure. Gergiev in 1998 emphasized the weight of the complete ballet, taking urgently fast tempos (the entire "Nutcracker" barely fit on a single CD) and letting the famous melodies appear as moments of repose. Here, with his hand-shaped Mariinsky Orchestra, Gergiev eases up by a few minutes on the speed and lets the strings luxuriate in the silky textures of which they are capable. This version will appeal more to casual "Nutcracker" fans. Yet in other ways this is pure Gergiev. To fill out the second CD you get a quite grand reading of the "Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36," not the darkest, but the most epically Beethovenian of Tchaikovsky's six, and the fundamental emphases of the work remain in place. You get the feeling that Gergiev still wanted to assert the Russianness of the work, despite all its international flavors. Sample the Arabian dance "Coffee" to hear a representative slice of Gergiev's style and also to admire the Mariinsky engineering, which lets small shades of texture through to the listener. Heartily recommended.