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 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.