My Favourite Scores – 1938

  • Alexander Nevsky
  • Sergei Prokofiev
  • VoxBox / 1990 / 38:52 & Capriccio / 2004 / 55:49

There’s so many different versions of this title available that it was a recommendation from Lukas Kendall in Film Score Monthly’s magazine (when it was still in print form) that attracted me to this version of Prokofiev’s cantata format of his score to Alexander Nevsky (with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin). And listening more recently to a re-recording of the complete film score (Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra & Frank Strobel on the Capriccio label) only enhances my appreciation of Prokofiev’s score. In fact, I prefer the music as heard in the film score format.

It may seem an odd thing to say but the score is very Russian sounding! What particularly sticks in the mind are the great choral pieces such as “Arise Russian People!”, “Lake Plesheyeyo” and the choral passages in the Battle On The Ice scene. It’s quite a sombre score overall but does have numerous highlights (e.g., “Return To Pskov – Procession”).

Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky can’t be talked about without mention of James Horner and his “danger motif”. Film composers are always using tried and trusted musical devices in their music – and in a way this is what makes their “trademark sound”. Horner, perhaps more than most, references classical works and a specific musical device (heard in “The Battle On The Ice – April 5, 1242” along with other devices and motifs familiar to anyone who knows Horner’s scores such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) stands out as what has become known as Horner’s “danger motif”. Personally, I don’t mind the various references he and others are always making but it can be a bit distracting to suddenly be reminded of other films when what you want to do is immerse yourself in this grand score.

I would probably recommend the complete film score over the cantata version but either one is a worthy addition to my list.