Settled Scores: Prokofiev at the Movies


ike many other cinema classics, Sergei Eisenstein s stunning epics of medieval Russia suffer from squawky soundtracks. In the case of other films, low musical fidelity can lend an agreeable period patina, in keeping with the flickers images. But the scores of Alexander Nevsky (1938) and the never-completed multipart Ivan the Terrible (1944-1945) deserve better. It was Eisenstein’s inspiration to commission music from Sergei Prokofiev, whose blazing sense of dramatics matched his own. When the films came out, it was immediately clear that Soviet sound technicians had failed Prokofiev miserably, and his contributions migrated to the concert hall in the form of an independent Nevsky cantata (assembled bv Pro-

kofiev himself) and an Ivan oratorio (posthumously stitched together by the conductor who had worked on the film). Lately sound and image have been reunited. in the screening of lovingly restored prints (still, however, afflicted with patches of jerk and flicker) with live accompaniment by leading symphony orchestras under to p -ofthe-Iine m aestros. After making the circuit for several seasons, the restored Nevsky has recently appeared as an RCA Victor Red Seal video (VEIS and Laserdisc), with Yuri Temirkanov leading

a fresh, stirring account of the score by

the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and three of the city’s choruses. On June 1—3 the New York Philharmonic presents a full-length program of excerpts from Ivan as the centerpiece of a celebration that also includes a symposium, lectures, screenings, and an archival exhibit. For schedule details and tickets call 212-721-6500.