Film music for the concert hall as arranged by the composer finds Leonard Slatkin and his St. Louis forces in their cinematic element, 1977/79 vintage, with great sound from Aubort & Nickrenz (Elite Recordings) remastered for the Audiophile upgrade by Mike Clements & Andrew Walton. Both scores sound great in these latest transfers. The five-movement Kijé Suite comes with a two-word warning – George Szell – although his Cleveland recording is without a singer (quite legit) whereas Slatkin sports Arnold Voketaitis in suave and Slavic voice for the ‘Romance’ and whip-cracking/syllabically unstinting for ‘Troika’. The remaining movements are pin-pointedly played and shaped and shaded beguilingly, affection abounds, and to fantastical effect. Szell has a rival. For the cantata that is Nevsky (directed by Eisenstein), the yardstick is another Hungarian who made it in the States, Fritz Reiner, his Chicago/RCA taping being my much-played introduction to the work; in English, by the way. Slatkin does Russian, the SLS Chorus well-prepared musically and linguistically (too early for Amy Kaiser’s long directorship), perfectly balanced. Terrific performance throughout, vividly characterised, ebbed and flowed as befits a story: ‘Battle on the Ice’ – opening with a tense atmosphere and then unbridled in conflict – is thrilling, leaving Claudine Carlson to search the fields lined by the dead, intensely heartfelt, before the victorious Alexander and entourage enters Pskov with uplifting hymn, carefree dancing and mighty clangour. Reiner has a rival, so too a live-in-London Svetlanov on BBC Legends. VOXNX3033CD. These Vox Audiophile issues are fast becoming incredibly important, whether Slatkin (Ivan the Terrible still to come?) or Abravanel, or, imminent, Skrowaczewski and Susskind.

https://naxosdirect.co.uk/labels/vox-classics-26971