Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky - Ormandy

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky - Ormandy

Dutton  CDLX 7362

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky*, Lieutenant Kijé Suite^

Betty Allen* (mezzo)
The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia*
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy (conductor)

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2 of 3 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording
Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - October 20, 2018

Musically, this is first rate but suffers from some distortion on loud, high trumpet notes.

Compared to Abbado's celebrated account (no hi-res issue to date), Ormandy is a tiny bit more urgent throughout; only in the third movement (The Crusaders in Pskov) is Ormandy a little more relaxed but generally, tempo choices are fairly similar. The hi-resolution medium allows for detail to be heard clearly, without congestion which is no small achievement in this music. With the exception of loud, high trumpet notes (a fault of the tapes not the playing), The Philadelphia Orchestra are a joy to the ear and their commitment is matched by The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Betty Allen's account is dramatic but perhaps without the same degree of Slavic bite that Elena Obraztsova gives Abbado. All in all, Ormandy gives a tremendously powerful account of Alexander Nevsky.

Lieutenant Kijé is played equally well with, mercifully, the distortion that blighted some of the more involved high trumpet playing in Alexander Nevsky is absent here. After a wonderfully withdrawn Birth of Kijé, the Romance blossoms naturally as it "steps forward" aurally. The Wedding & Troika are as ebullient as one could wish - there's a real sense of unbuttoned playing here; the concluding burial is suitably poignant and here the dynamic range really tells. The only widely available alternative in MCH is Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6, Lieutenant Kijé, Love for Three Oranges - Litton which is presented conventionally with all forces in front of the listener; a twist is the use of a baritone for the Romance and Troika under Litton. Musically, the honours are even & listeners can decide which sound presentation is more appealing.

The reproduction of the recording may be more problematic: this is presented in the style of Tacet's Real Surround or 2L's more adventurous aural presentations. This means the violins are in the front left, trumpets behind on the right and the rest of the musicians dispersed seemingly at random. Once accustomed to, it is tremendously exciting and opens the textures wonderfully; some may prefer a more conventional presentation of the orchestral & choral forces. One aspect of the recording that is disappointing is that many of the loud, high notes in the trumpets are audibly distorting (presumably decay in the master tapes) in Alexander Nevsky. Fortunately this is not carried through to Lieutenant Kijé which is also presented with the listener "in the mix". Although the levels are higher than usual for a classical music release, there is no shortage of dynamic range.

Recommended with reservations: musically, there are absolutely no hesitations. Sonically, there is the distortion of the trumpets that many will struggle to acclimatise to as well as the unusual seating arrangement in MCH. Despite all these caveats, these performances deserve to be heard.

Copyright © 2018 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars
Comments (9)

Comment by hiredfox - October 13, 2018 (1 of 9)

A big, bold and brash transfer that will not please all ears. Transfer is harsh (strings & voices in particular) and lacks instrumental detail. Not clear from label if transfer has been made from the original 4 track analogue tapes or from a disc. The fill up Kije recording is definitely from original analogue tapes and sounds better to my ears.

This new release is worth having because of the dearth of Nevsky's in the catalogue but I much prefer Schippers with the New York Philharmonic on Sony. If you are in the market for this work, Schippers is the one to go for if available and affordable.

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Schippers

Comment by john hunter - October 15, 2018 (2 of 9)

Do you think it would be better in MC, Bruce? I think you are a stereo man.
Tempted by this as I can recall owning the lp.
As you rightly say Nevsky's are short on the ground.
Second the Schippers and stay away at all costs from the MF Slatkin with the St Louis Symphony.
Will send you to sleep very quickly which is surprising considering his excellent Ivan the Terrible.
His version should be called Nevsky the Terrible!!

Comment by John Broggio - October 20, 2018 (3 of 9)

Will hopefully post a review later today of this release...

Comment by hiredfox - October 20, 2018 (4 of 9)

John, it's John not Bruce.

Simply, I do not know if mch would make a difference. It is doubtful that the harshness would be reduced and the lack of detail is likely to be down to poor microphone placement within the orchestra.

The other John's review will be interesting to read.

Comment by john hunter - October 22, 2018 (5 of 9)

Glad to see there are so many Johns!!!

Comment by ubertrout - October 25, 2018 (6 of 9)

Through my mid-fi system the 4.0 layer is fun and engaging but not the last word on fidelity. I agree that the Kije sounds better - it's represented that Nevsky is vintage 2.0/4.0 mixes taken from the mixed analogue master tapes, while Kije is remixed into 4.0 from the original analogue multitracks, and the stereo is presumably a downmix of this new mix. Both mixes use the surround element particularly aggressively, which may not be everyone's taste. I personally enjoyed in Kije having the counterpointed melodies from different instruments doing a dialogue around the room, but others might not.

Comment by William Hecht - October 31, 2018 (7 of 9)

In multichannel I don't find the brass particularly aggressive, maybe something like a world class orchestra trying to impart some of the raw brass sound we used to get from Russian orchestras on Melodiya lps. The multichannel mix is totally artificial but actually kind of interesting in the context of film music.

Comment by philip edwards - January 6, 2019 (8 of 9)

It may be of interest and relevance that, on the original film soundtrack recording, Prokofiev actually wanted a distorted sound from the trumpets, which were played directly into the microphones to give a terrifying effect. S. Prokofiev, Autobiography, p. 114 Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow c.1960

Comment by john hunter - April 11, 2019 (9 of 9)

A really enjoyable performance of the Nevsky.
And yes I'm pretty sure those trumpets sound as they were intended making those nasty Crusaders even more evil!
They do sound pretty much as they should elsewhere!!
However the real stars of the show are the chorus who sing with such commitment and feeling and are granted a lovely wide and deep perspective across the front sound stage.
Recommended and I didn't find the quad sound too much.
Nothing pops up behind you.
Just a good 3D sound stage slightly pushed to the sides with a few over enthusiastic bells,gongs etc in the finale.
Great fun.