LISZT: Sonata in B minor. Sonetto No. 123 del Petrarca. Mephisto
Waltz No. 1.CHOPIN: Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39. Etude in
Op. 10 No. 12 "Revolutionary." SCRIABIN: Nocturne for the Left
Hand, Op. 9 NO. 2. DEBUSSY: La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune.
KHACHATURIAN: Spartacus Ballet
SHCHEDRIN: Anna Karenina
Here is the fifth in VAI's series of concert recordings by Van Cliburn made during his many trips to Russia after winning the 1958 first International Tchaikovsky Competition Previous issues have been mentioned on this site: Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1/Beethoven Concerto No. 5 (REVIEW); Grieg Concerto/Brahms Concerto No. 2 (REVIEW); Rachmaninoff Concertos 2 and 3 (REVIEW); and piano music of Brahms, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff (REVIEW). Now we have this disk of the Liszt sonata from a concert in 1960, and other works of Liszt, Chopin, Debussy and Scriabin from concerts in 1972. Cliburn always was at his best in live performances, and all of these concerts in Russia before an adoring audience show him at his peak of performance. What a pleasure it is to watch his huge hands conquering the keyboard in these stunning performances. Audio and video are adequate. Are these more such treasures still in the Russian vaults?
The Bolshoi Ballet's presentation of Khachaturian's Spartacus has been a hit ever since 1968 when the spectacular staging by Yuri Grigorovich was first presented. There have already been three videos of Bolshoi performances: 1997 with Vladimir Vasiliev in the title role and Natalia Bessertnova as Phrygia; a 1990 performance with Irek Mukhamedov and Lyudmilla Semenyaka, and the 2008 version taped in Paris with Carlos Acosta and Nina Kaptsova. Now we have another earlier version, this from 1970. Again Vladimir Vasiliev is in the title role but this time Phrygia is danced by his wife, Ekaterina Maximova. As in his 1997 version, Vasiliev is astounding as the slave leader. Although Acosta is extraordinary in the most recent version, Vasiliev is definitive. Video and audio are satisfactory, and for those who are looking for a video of Khachaturian's epic ballet, and don't insist on the latest technology, either of the Vasiliev versions is the one to have.
Maya Plisetskaya, probably the finest Russian ballerina of the century, always wanted to dance the role of the doomed Anna Karenina, heroine of Tolstoy's epic story. When she could not interest anyone in the project, her husband, Rodion Shchedrin wrote the score, and she did most of the choreography. The ballet focuses on the tragic love of Anna, unhappily married to Karenin, hopelessly attracted to Count Vronsky, ending with her leaping to her death in front of a train. Sets are minimal and uniformly dark, appropriate for the hopeless situation. Plisetskaya is magnificent in the title role—what a pleasure it is to watch her. The death scene is stunning as she is seen in a strobe light dancing to Shchedrin's striking music which often is reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann. This performance was filmed in 1980. Color video and audio are satisfactory. This is an opportunity to see one of the major dancers in a role perfect for her.
R.E.B. (November 2009)