Valery Gergiev - Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Debussy. 1996. Rehearsal and performance. More information here.
This DVD shows Valery Gergiev at his best (including his best looks), rehearsing Prokofiev´s Scythian Suite with the Rotterdam Philharmonics and subsequently conducting the work together with works by Stravinsky and Debussy in concert.
Valery Gergiev has claimed Prokofiev to be his favourite composer and in the fascinating rehearsal documentation, he discusses Prokofiev with the composer´s son Oleg Prokofiev, who provides interesting insights about his father as well as the Scythian Suite, Prokofiev´s answer to the Rite of Spring.
Valery Gergiev seems to have an exceptional understanding of the structure of Prokofiev´s compositions, and if he brought this level of insight and commitment to all his performances he would be untouchable. It´s easy to imagine how lesser conductors, or Gergiev himself on an off-day, may only be able to convey empty pompousness from much of Prokofiev´s work, including the Scythian Suite. The Scythian suite is simply given an optimal performance and I´ve come to see it as a masterworks of sorts. The sound Valery Gergiev draws from the Rotterdam Philharmonics is just as impressive and fiery as that from the Mariinsky Theater orchestra. Not to mention that rehearsing the Prokofiev shows Gergiev at his most dashingly Mephistophelean presence.
In concert, the Scythian Suite was accompanied by Stravinsky´s neoclassical piano concert (with Alexander Toradze) as well as the Fireworks and Debussy´s Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien, the latter not a highlight of Gergiev´s output, buth nevertheless interesting.
Valery Gergiev conducts the Scythian suite:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5 , 3=average):
Overall impression: 5