Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Opus 125 (1938-52)
Cello Sonata in C major, Opus 119 (1949)
Han-Na Chang (cello)
London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano (conductor and piano)
Recorded March 2002, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
EMI CLASSICS 5 57438-2 [61.41]


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Even with the greatest composers, the path to the completion of a work does not necessarily run true, even if the results sound absolutely convincing. Take the Prokofiev Symphony-Concerto, as he called his reworking of his earlier Cello Concerto. The latter was not a success at its 1938 premiere, and the composer knew it. He was encouraged to return to the music on hearing the young Mstislav Rostropovich play it with ardour of the utmost commitment, some nine years later. Not that he changed his mind completely - the experience led him to undertake a thorough-going revision, a fact he emphasised by the new title Cello Concerto No. 2. Still unsure about the music's worth, he revised it again during 1952, his penultimate year, and this final version he renamed Symphony-Concerto. (The more traditional title, Sinfonia Concertante, which is used with this EMI issue, is unhelpfully archaic.)

The young Korean cellist Han-Na Chang combines most effectively with Antonio Pappano and the LSO, in a performance which shows just how successful Prokofiev's revisions were in creating a masterwork. The rich textures of the orchestral sound are well captured in the pleasing Abbey Road Studio acoustic, and the musical argument receives a tightly controlled, firmly directed interpretation which suits it particularly well. The emotional side of the music is revealed also, as Chang's sure intonation and deeply felt lines conquer all challenges. She is at her best towards the top of her range. The articulation of the fast central Scherzo is crystal clear, despite the daringly fast tempo, and this serves at the same to intensify the effect of the more lyrical balancing phrases. All praise to Pappano's control of the orchestra, as the brass interjections make their biting point. The cello is placed a little prominently in the perspective, certainly more so than any but the front rows would experience at a live concert. But since the playing is so good Chang stands up to this test.

Pappano makes a subtle accompanist in the Sonata, supporting the cello line with great concern for balance and detail. This is another late work, composed in 1947 when Prokofiev's health was failing, though not the standard of his inspiration. Since these two pieces have so much in common - their dates as well as their natures - they make an attractive coupling.

Terry Barfoot

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