Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Jurowski

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Jurowski

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186761

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ''Evgeny Svetlanov”
Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)

After the tremendous success of Swan Lake, Vladimir Jurowski and the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov” continue their Tchaikovsky ballet series on PENTATONE with this recording of The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s enchanting masterpiece is an absolute audience favourite, thanks to hits such as the Waltz of the Flowers, Trepak and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, but also due to the composer’s ability to evoke a sense of wonder in listeners both young and old. Vladimir Jurowski and his players tell this story about the power of fantasy with unprecedented zeal, demonstrating the symphonic refinement and orchestral brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s score.

The Nutcracker offers the third PENTATONE release of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov” together with its Artistic Director Vladimir Jurowski, after Prokofiev Symphonies 2 & 3 (2017) and Swan Lake (2018). Jurowski has recorded extensively for PENTATONE and is generally seen as one of the most prominent conductors of his generation.

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

DSD recording
Comments (18)

Comment by hiredfox - November 1, 2019 (1 of 18)

Absolutely delighted that Jurowski's survey of Tchaikovsky's three great classical ballets looks like being completed. Well done to all at Pentatone and Polyhymnia. In previous discussions on the Swan Lake thread some doubt was cast on the likelihood of this happening as earlier CD's by these forces may have implied that they would not re-record the same repertoire.

Comment by hiredfox - November 3, 2019 (2 of 18)

I am reminded to advise readers not to discount the superb Bolshoi disc of The Nutcracker that appeared on Pentatone a decade or so ago, a truly spell binding and magical performance. Petrenko will have to pull a few rabbits from his hat to outperform that nugget.

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Vedernikov

Comment by breydon_music - November 8, 2019 (3 of 18)

Yes, I recall this with pleasure also. In fact, I regret that Pentatone's fruitful association with Vedernikov did not continue longer. My own special pleasure from this series of recordings was his Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet suites - for me, as fine a performance and recording of this music as we have had in hi-res. Shame on Pentatone, then, for using each suite as filler on 2 seperate discs, even more so as one of them is paired with something by the awful (for me!) Gordon Getty!

Comment by Don_Angelo - November 14, 2019 (4 of 18)

Hey Hiredfox,

Reading your comment I am tempted to try that recording, because I was very disappointed by this one:
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker - Jarvi

Did you hear Järvi's account ? If so, how would you rate it compared to Dorati's London or Concertgebouw ? or this Gergiev's with Mariinsky Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Symphony No. 4 - Gergiev ?
From Jurowski I have an excellent memory from his Planets which replaced Karajan's recording with the Berliners as my favorite.

As this title is already released and available for purchase in here, I ordered it and should be able to answer my own question tomorrow.

Comment by hiredfox - November 15, 2019 (5 of 18)

I have both the Jarvi & Gergiev recordings made a couple of years ago. Gergiev impressed me hugely and I commented at length on how fine his interpretation and performance were. I won't reprise my comments as you can read them under that entry. Most certainly as dramatic and enchanting as the Bolshoi account but the latter comes with less sinister undertones suggested by the maestro and more in line with my understanding of how the composer would have expected children to respond innocently. When performed at Christmas the ballet is a palpable delight for children of all ages including me but never for one moment have I let cynicism enter my mind to deflect from the magic of childhood innocence.

Jarvi's version also has had its supporters and was full of life and colour but as we have surmised many times over the years, the recording quality does contribute to one's overall sense of the total performance and its ability to convey to listeners that sense of being there at a live performance. This is especially important for operatic and ballet performances. For all their technical skills and jiggery pokery, Chandos struggle for realism with 96kHz recordings when so many are now using DXD or DSD 256. The recording does not recover the full panoply of exciting orchestral colours and textures revealed in the composer's scores.

"Dull"... perhaps but not lacking some excitement. Gergiev teases with a new twist and wins on that basis alone as well by the outstanding recording produced by the Mariinsky engineers.

Comment by Don_Angelo - November 15, 2019 (6 of 18)

Thanks for your answer, I had three points in mind with my question:
- How would you rank either of the two Dorati's performance, the Järvi and the Gergiev ?
- I read your comments on the Gergiev, and it actually encouraged me to give Gergiev another chance as I consider him a very poor conductor in symphonies and concertos, and I had doubts on his ability to seduce me on the Nutcracker. I also wanted to know if your opinion had evolved on that performance.
- Since I generallly agree with you I was really curious about your views on both Jurowski's and Järvi's performance.

I received my copy today, will be listening to it thoroughly this week-end but based on a my first hearing it has merits. I was however disturbed by some balance issues, specifically in the Sugar Plum Fairy Dance, where the low strings sounded exagerately loud.

Comment by hiredfox - November 15, 2019 (7 of 18)

Hi Don.

Dorati's RCO recording from 1975 received many plaudits at the time of its release by Philips but I have never had a copy to analyse or review personally. It is never too late of course so you have prompted me to try to pick up a copy of the original Vinyl LP from Discogs if a mint condition example is available. I am not sure at this stage that I want to spend £35 on a pro-owned OOP Mercury SACD. I was never as impressed with the Mercury SACD transcripts as John Newton's Living Stereo series.


Comment by Don_Angelo - November 15, 2019 (8 of 18)

Since I own every Mercury SACD I can say that some are very impressive while the others are clearly not. The same could be said about the redbooks, to a lesser extent. Dorati's Nutcracker I would call it a must have, both because of the performance and the sound quality. I'd be curious to know your gripes about the Mercury Living Presence and the Living Stereo SACDs, since I would definitely pick some of the best SACD I've heard/own amongst them.
The strange irony is that modern reccording gear has better specs and produce more detail sound, however modern sound engineering makes a recording like this Jurowski's less life-like than some recordings of the 50-60s.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - November 26, 2019 (9 of 18)

Don Angelo's comment regarding "life like" sound made me reflect on a comment by someone once known among the forum participants as "Tailspn". He was lighting director for the Boston Pops for a while and became friendly with John Newton of SoundMirror. He participated in setting microphones for the SACD BSO recordings of James Levine.

He told me something quite surprising: The SoundMirror recordings were changed markedly in "post-production" by influential people in Levine's circle.

SoundMirror delivered recordings as faithful as possible to the sound of the BSO in Symphony Hall, but Levine's group didn't like that sound - they apparently thought the sound should be more like what people hear on CDs. But they did not realize this was their criterion! They thought they were making the recordings more life like!

Well if you don't attend a lot of live concerts and actually THINK about the sound you are hearing, you may believe that some recordings from the 50's and 60's are more "life like" than those made by modern engineers. The early recordings are kind of "goosed up" to be more impressive and if you get used to that you believe it is the live sound.

BTW many Polyhymnia engineers actually have decades of recording experience and may have been responsible for some of the sound you are thinking of.

Comment by Don_Angelo - November 26, 2019 (10 of 18)

Thanks Bruce Zeisel for the interesting facts about SoundMirror, I did not know they had adjusted the mastering of SACDs from the Living Stereo series to sound more like CDs.

When I mentioned life-like sound I was indeed referring to live orchestras in a concert hall, as I frequently attend concerts. In my youth I was a student at music school, and therefore played myself in the orchestra or small ensembles. My main gripe against modern sound engineering is about the filtering. Sometimes about balance, but most of the time filtering, especially the little defects you can hear from the instrument’s mechanic. I am aware this is purely a matter of opinion, some friends of mine are genuinely disturbed by this “extra-sound” and prefer “modern” recordings where it has been removed.

You are very right to point out some of this “vintage” recordings are goosed up, so are the “modern” ones actually. I simply think, it is more common and more exaggerated today, because we have more tools now. Karajan’s recording from the 70s are commonly pointed out as goosed up, his Brahms and Tchaikovsky’s symphonies of that era for instance.

Arthur Rubinstein's piano recordings made with RCA also come in mind. According to the legend, he and his son argued frequently with John Pfeiffer and his team to make his piano be very forward in concertos recordings. I remember very well his Saint-Saens 2nd concerto being very striking on that matter.

Comment by hiredfox - November 27, 2019 (11 of 18)

tailspn - Tom hasn't been seen here since the website name change. He was a good friend and gave us tremendous insights into the workings of the Boston Symphony and Sound Mirror but alas for all his love of DSD/SACD and influence he was unable to persuade the BSO to keep their SACD label going. I believe he still pops up from time to time on Audio Asylum. Is he still he an agent for Channel Classics on the US East Coast?

We "remember' Tom best for his outrageous multi-channel electrostatic set-up that brought gasps of amazement from many contributors, pictures of which can still be viewed on our foundation site and still make people gasp. Tom 'though had a wicked sense of humour and a sharp vocabulary. One of the great contributors of

For many years my wife and I have attended symphony orchestra concerts at least once a week. I have always used real concert hall sound as my benchmark for how to judge new recordings. Although aural memory is notoriously fickle, constant exposure to the real sound of real instrumental and ensemble sound will gradually condition one's hearing to detect even small deviations from the benchmark.

Comment by john hunter - November 29, 2019 (12 of 18)

I would be very interested Don on what you regard as the best of the Mercury SA-CDs.
I have a fair number myself and would to good to compare.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - December 3, 2019 (13 of 18)


This matter of post-production mastering has nothing to do with SACD mastering or with the Living Stereo remastering for SACD. It was the way the Levine people wanted the Levine BSO recordings to sound. It is inexplicable to me, having heard a recording in the sound room in Symphony Hall and then hearing the resulting SACD. The initial recording had much more air, space and dynamics than the SACD. When I mentioned this to Tom, his response was as I related above. I mentioned "goosed up" in response to your comparison of 50s & 60s recordings with modern recordings which I personally prefer by a wide margin - but then I am listening in 5 channel surround sound not stereo.

Comment by GROOT GELUID - December 4, 2019 (14 of 18)

The recording of this performance of Nutcracker was done in the beautiful big concert hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory during a live performance and complemented with rehearsal takes. As always I used Polyhymnia pre-amps and a Merging Horus line/AD dxd input into Pyramix. The balances are special and part of the care Jurovski takes to make the most of this score's symphonic build up. For instance the first six numbers he reduced the string numbers making the start and these numbers have a more chamber music feel. Very interesting and brave to do, as it asked a lot from the orchestra players.

Comment by Graham Williams - December 4, 2019 (15 of 18)

Thank you Erdo for your information about the recording of this disc.

Regarding the Jurowski recording of the Sleeping Beauty currently available on CD.

Could you tell us whether it was recorded by Polyhymnia and whether it might appear on Pentatone SACD? If not, are there any plans to record it again with Jurowski in order to complete his three Tchaikovsky Ballets for Pentatone? My guess is that the latter scenario is unlikely.

Comment by Steven Harrison - December 4, 2019 (16 of 18)

Interesting discussion here.
In regards to Tom Caulfield, aka tailspn, he currently works for Jared at the site. He does the dsd work and has several articles on the site that are well worth reading.

Comment by GROOT GELUID - December 6, 2019 (17 of 18)

As far as I know there is no plan to record Sleeping Beauty for Pentatone. But there are a few more Prokofiev symphony related recordings with these artists in the pipeline....

Comment by Don_Angelo - December 7, 2019 (18 of 18)

Ok thanks for clearing up that misunderstanding.
As for which of the Mercury I find the most valuable, sonically wise, it is a tricky question. I'd have to listen to them all again to answer it. I’ll make sure to do so and will let you know.

The Jurowski’s performance I like very much, the man has a very elegant and delicate baton. I really hope a recording for Sleeping Beauty will be done, I think Jurowski would make it very special. May I ask why in this recording I feel the lower strings sound a bit loud and reverberated? It is very noticeable in the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy.