TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker
Kirov Orchestra and Chorus/Valery Gergiev, cond.
Philips 462 114 (F) (DDD) TT: 80:58

There are more than a dozen complete recordings of Tchaikovsky's popular ballet, more than three dozen of the familiar suite of better-known excerpts—plus more than two dozen of an extended suite. To these Philips has added one more complete version, with the much-acclaimed Valery Gergiev conducting the Kirov Orchestra, which surely one of the finer recordings. The performance was recorded in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus in August 1998, a site with warm acoustics, richly captured "on Jaap de Jong vacuum tube equipment."  Gergiev's tempi are brisk (80:58) which makes it possible for it to be issued on a single CD with maximum playing time (which might present tracking problems on some CD players). Ansermet's performance time is 83:47; Richard Bonynge's 88:03, and Dorati's with the Concertgebouw 84:10.

This is a frustrating CD to play. Philips has a new package style for this: a three-section cardboard folder with the CD set into a plastic container in the middle. It is very difficult to remove the CD from its plastic cubicle, clumsy to handle the jewel box. My favorite Nutcracker remains the Dorati/Concertgebouw release, also on Philips, a 2-CD set which includes a spectacular performance of asuite from Sleeping Beauty (conducted by Anatole Fistoulari), for the same price.