PROKOFIEV: "ALEXANDER NEVSKY"; "LIEUTENANT KIJE." Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano; Los Angeles Master Chorale; Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Andre Previn. Telarc CD-80143 (compact disc). No knowledge of Soviet cinema is needed to appreciate the bravura drama of Prokofiev's cantata.
This recording, made a year ago in Royce Hall but only recently released, features the same artists who will accompany the film in its Music Center showing. Previn leads a precise, vigorous reading of Prokofiev's boldly colored score, one of both musical balance and narrative thrust. The Master Chorale is almost too smooth for the strong music, but Cairns brings rich, dark sound and a poised sense of both sorrow and determination to "The Field of the Dead" song.
The "Lieutenant Kije" Suite, like the cantata extracted and reworked from a film score, makes an effective companion, in an elegant, biting reading. The brilliant Telarc sonics make it an effective show-off disc.