One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953)
The Stone Flower, Ballet in four acts and nine scenes, Op 118 (1953) [148.19]
Scenario by Mira Mendelson [Prokofieva] and Leonid Lavrovsky from "The Malachite Box" by Pavel Bazhov.
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
Recorded at the New Broadcasting House, Manchester, UK, 28 January 2003
Notes in English, Deutsch, and Français.
CHANDOS CHAN 10058(2) [72.39 + 75.40]

The Stone Flower was Prokofievís absolute last composed work. Indeed, on that fatal evening in 1953 he had pen in hand setting notes to paper* even as the fatal seizure struck him to the floor. Of all Prokofievís lengthy works it has endured the most neglect, to my knowledge having never been recorded complete before this. Compared unfavourably to Romeo and Juliet, itís been condemned as an interminable crashing bore and swept firmly aside. In a manner similar to Vaughan Williamsí Ninth Symphony it has been presented as evidence that the composer was utterly past it and should have quit composing some time previously. Vaughan Williams has since had the last word, and I think now itís Prokofievís turn.

The plot of the ballet is absurd, and totally unrelated to the music, so we need not trouble with it. At about my third complete listening through, the idea struck me that this work is Prokofievís "Symphony #8" in a startling new form, never used by the composer before ó that of Mahler! Like Mahler symphonies, the work is long, in this case, at over two and a half hours, exceeding Mahlerís longest. Like all Mahler Symphonies, quotations abound from earlier works. Dance movements move deliriously across the stage to be followed by long largos of slowly shifting harmonies and static wails of anguish and despair, then echoes of the dance episodes waft eerily by. In the end, as in Mahler symphonies, the anguish builds to a huge climax and dies away unrelieved. Previous recordings of excerpts have made it impossible to perceive the overall plan of the music.

The annotator betrays a curious prejudice against the efficacy of Soviet divorces and civil marriages by referring to Mira Mendelson as Prokofievís "companion" when in fact and in law Mira Mendelson Prokofieva was his second wife and lies buried by his side in Moscow. But is it possible that Miss Mendelson in coming to be Mrs. Prokofieva did more than advise her husband on etiquette and protocol? Is it possible she made him more aware of a world of culture he had previously only dabbled with (i.e. the Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op 34 from 1919), one he eventually came to identify with very personally? No one doubts the influence of Mahler on Shostakovich? Why not on Prokofiev? Here is the proof.

*Lest I mislead, it should be said that the score was complete, but the Bolshoi had requested revisions to facilitate the staging and it was these he was writing.

Paul Shoemaker

See also review by Rob Barnett

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1



Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.