Sergey Prokofiev's score for the film Alexander Nevsky, the Sergei Eisenstein historical epic about Russians repelling a German invasion, is a rousing masterpiece even if you're not a Russian nationalist. Prokofiev adapted the film score into a shorter piece suitable for concert performance, and he retained the narrative sense as well as the best bits. While Russia as a whole is under control of the Tartar horde, Alexander Nevsky has kept the city of Novgorod free by dint of his martial prowess. We hear of his great battle against the Swedes, and then the Germans advance on the city. The two forces meet on the surface of frozen Lake Chudskoye during "Battle on the Ice," a piece which begins with a shimmering violin intro soon menaced by deep bass swells and furious brass interruptions. Then the chorus breaks in, exhorting the two sides to clash, and the music takes on a swirling quality as chaos overtakes the battlefield. David Robertson leads our own Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra through the conflict, with mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina and the Saint Louis Symphony Chorus. Also on the program is Igor Stravinsky's Symphony No. 1 and "Three Sacred Choruses," an early and late example of Stravinsky using more conventional Russian music, free of the modernist flair for which he gained great acclaim. The program is performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (November 19 and 20) at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org). Tickets are $20 to $107.
Fri., Nov. 19; Sat., Nov. 20, 2010