The Great Classics series from Naxos is the perfect introduction to myriad genres of classical music. Comprising both complete and compiled selections from the greatest works in the repertoire, the boxes are bursting with wonderful pieces of music, both recognizable and unfamiliar. The boxes take the listener on a thrilling tour of some of the worlds most dramatic musical media, encompassing music from six centuries and featuring sensational performers.
Filmed at The Mariinsky Theatre St.Petersburg, where it was first performed in 1892, comes this adult version of the Nutcracker. Worlds away from the traditional and warm versions popular at Christmas, this unconventional production, reinterpreted by Russian emigre and world-renowned avant-garde artist Mikhail Shemiakin, is a surreal, and at times disturbing, piece. Two of the Mariinsky's young stars, Leonid Sarafanov and Irina Golub, dance the main roles, and Valery Gergiev conducts.
A second disc of Stravinsky’s ballet music from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov, this time featuring the composer’s fascinating recreation of the music of Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky’s advocation of the then unfashionable music of Tchaikovsky was well-known: he was a public champion of the composer over the Russian ‘nationalists’ such as Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1928, Stravinsky was commissioned by Ida Rubinstein to compose a ballet for her company’s season which was based on music by Tchaikovsky.
Acknowledged as one of the finest contemporary composers, Barcelona-born Leonardo Balada has written a series of Caprichos, suite-like pieces that illustrate the range of his invention. Fusing traditional and contemporary elements, they generate a symbiosis between the ethnic and the avant-garde, as in Caprichos No. 7: Fantasies of 'La Tarara' in which an Andalusian folk melody is transformed into a surrealist canvas, and in the vividly descriptive dissonance of Caprichos No. 6. Ballet City is a youthful work, reflecting Balada's early enthusiasm for neo-classicism.
Maria Kochetkova is exceptional as Juliet, her movements always graceful, supple and beautiful. Her facial expressions early in the ballet radiate an ingratiating childlike innocence and joy, but in the darker and more tragic moments later on transform subtly to frustration, fear and sadness. She is a fine actress and a great dancer. Davit Karapetyan makes a splendid Romeo: his dance scenes with Juliet exude passion and deep love, and his sword fight with Tybalt divulges both exceptional athleticism and gracefulness. Luke Ingham in the role of Tybalt is also very convincing, both in his dancing and acting skills. (Robert Cummings, Classical Net)