PROKOFIEV Ivan the Terrible (Strobel)
Purists immune to the charms of Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan’s Prokofiev for Two (see page 65) might prefer the present issue. Frank Strobel gives us an ‘authentic’ stop-start realisation of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible music with vamp-until-ready connective tissue and noises off. It’s his own edition, primarily intended for playing live alongside Sergey Eisenstein’s two-part cinematic masterpiece. Indeed, Strobel premiered the score this way on September 16, 2016, at the Musikfest Berlin, just after completing Capriccio’s studio sessions. He thus offers more material than Vladimir Fedoseyev (Nimbus, 2/01) or Valéry Polyansky (Chandos) whose own would-be comprehensive renderings rely on the 100 minute version published by Hans Sikorski in 1997.
Sonically speaking this Berlin-made production is certainly up to the job and its conductor has a whole series of comparable restorations under his belt, including a ‘complete’ Alexander Nevsky (Capriccio, 1/05). More analytical listening may be frustrated by shortcomings in the supporting documentation. Trilingual notes fail to clarify why the running order is as it is or even the authorship of what’s included. One option is to wallow. The chorus is placed in a suitably resonant acoustic for the Orthodox liturgical element curtailed in rival accounts and Marina Prudenskaya, fresh from her Royal Opera House debut as Azucena (Il trovatore), has a deep-pile, obviously Slav instrument. Like the more familiar Muscovite bass, Alexander Vinogradov, she seems perfect casting. Only the instrumentals lack a certain Soviet heft.
There are many abridged options. Riccardo Muti has been a consistent champion of the once mandatory oratorio assembled by Abram Stasevich (EMI, 4/78), while Valery Gergiev is among those offering a halfway-house selection based on Stasevich but without linking narration (Philips, 2/98). Curiously we still await a recording of the tighter Levon Atovmyan score first championed by Vladimir Jurowski. On the present CDs, as with so many Russian films, the bells do a lot of tolling and you’re in for the long haul.