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Cat. No. CHAN 10153(2) Price: £24 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 10153 - Prokofiev: Ivan the Terrible/ Ballad of an Unknown Boy
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Available From: 13 October 2003
"The film director Eisenstein and Prokofiev met in 1925 and were very much creative soul mates. They had hoped to collaborate on a variety of films but were rarely able to do so because of conflicting schedules. Thus, when, in 1942, Eisenstein started his epic film about the sixteenth-century tsar Ivan Grozny it was to Prokofiev that he turned for the music.

Ivan’s infamously cruel reign wrought enormous changes in Russia. He increased the country’s military strength, curtailed the power of the land-owning aristocrats and set up the Oprichniki – a police force notorious for its brutality. Stalin was an admirer of Ivan and Eisenstein relished the opportunity to draw parallels between Ivan and Russia’s latter-day dictator, examining the moral questions and weighing Ivan’s cruelty against his achievements. Part One of the film, released in 1944, won a Stalin prize, but in Part Two Eisenstein presented Ivan (and by implication Stalin) as crueller and more paranoid and his actions as less justified. As the Russian film industry entered a period of increased repression, Ivan was one of several films that were banned in 1946, with work on Part Three being stopped altogether.

Ballad of an Unknown Boy is one of several patriotic works by Prokofiev. The cantata uses a poem which tells of a boy whose mother and sister are killed by the Nazis and who exacts revenge by blowing up a carload of German officers. Although his identity remains a mystery, his actions are an inspiration to others.

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Reviews

'The performance shows the conductor at his best… he gives the score's tangy colours and bold gestures their due…Polyansky gives us a good sense of the music's imaginative timbres and its riveting dramatic power.'
Fanfare

The Russian State Symphony Orchestra plays splendidly for Valeri Polyansky…
The Strad on CHAN 9890 (Symphony-Concerto etc.)

'This is an atmospheric and hugely vivid reading by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and conductor Valeri Polyansky that suggests an intimate knowledge of Eisentein's film. It is helped considerably by a generously warm and resonant recorded acoustic.'
International Record Review

Both discs feature fine performances by a reliable Chandos team.
The Daily Telegraph on CHAN 10044 (On the Dnieper etc.) and CHAN 10056 (Egyptian Nights etc.)

Valeri Polyansky makes a strong case for the ballet On the Dnieper.
Financial Times on CHAN 10044 (On the Dnieper etc.)

' Prokofiev's score for Ivan the Terrible is some of the best film music ever written, fusing the composer's melodic gifts, his salty version of high-romantic orchestration, his love of grand church chants and thrilling marches. Despite the lack of Eisenstein's visuals, this powerful recording captures much of the film's epic grandeur, with Polyansky drawing some massive climaxes and breathtaking moments of intimacy from his forces.'
Classic FM Magazine

Polyansky and the orchestra plunge crisply and confidently into the varied scores… Prokofiev newcomers and old timers alike should find pleasure in this disc.
The Times on CHAN 10056 (Egyptian Nights etc.)

 

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