> Sergei PROKOFIEV - The Violin Concertos [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1, Opus 19 (1917-23)*
Violin Concerto No. 2 (1935)*
Overture on Hebrew Themes, Opus 34b (1919)^
March in B flat, Opus 99 (1944)^
Schlomo Mintz (violin)*
Chicago Symphony Orchestra*
Chamber Orchestra of Europe^
Claudio Abbado*^
Recorded February-March 1983, Orchestra Hall Chicago (Concertos); October-November 1988, Konzertshaus Vienna (Overture, March)


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With excellent sound and a programme of some of Prokofiev's most compelling music, this reissue of performances from the 1980s makes an extremely attractive proposition.

Abbado has always been a fine conductor of Prokofiev, and in the two concertos his accompaniments are full of orchestral subtleties and seem particularly well balanced. The keen attention to details of orchestral texture proves an ideal foil to Schlomo Mintz's beautifully toned solo line. In the exotic, magical textures of the First Concerto, the carefully rehearsed performance really does bring to the music a sheen of sophisticated tone colour. For this score is among the most beautifully crafted in the composer's whole output.

The Second Concerto is altogether more direct in its musical style, though the mastery is such that the music is of equal merit. Mintz is at his best when the music expands lyrically, as in the slower second theme of the opening movement. The rhythmic pointing of the finale is another success story, and Abbado settles on just the right tempo to combine the characteristics of the music: rhythmic pointing and a dogged strength which also finds room for solo display on the violinist's part. When such display comes to the fore, Mintz delivers the goods.

The two smaller items complete a most attractive programme. Among the composer's less well known pieces, there are few better than the Overture on Hebrew Themes, which he composed for a group of ex-patriot Russians whom he encountered in New York. The score has a sparkling wit, and is infectious both melodically and rhythmically.

The short final item, the March Opus 99, was composed in 1944 for military band, but Prokofiev soon made an alternative orchestral version. The work may be a mere trifle, but it is attractive enough and communicates a direct presence, particularly when it is played as well as it is here.

This disc would be a top recommendation at full price. As a reissue it represents excellent value both artistically and commercially.

Terry Barfoot

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