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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Op. 125 (1938-52) [36:51]
Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 119 (1949) [24:50]
Han-Na Chang (cello)
London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano (conductor; piano)
rec. March 2002, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
EMI CLASSICS 5181892 [61.41]
 
Experience Classicsonline


This almost universally praised disc has now been repackaged – and the main work correctly renamed - at superbudget price, making a superb bargain for anyone who didn’t catch it first time around. It’s easy to hear why the critics, including these columns (see review) were fulsome in their admiration. Han-Na Chang was the youngest cellist to tackle the mature Symphony-Concerto on disc, and the results were pretty sensational. It can seem a sprawling, somewhat unwieldy work in the wrong hands, but Chang manages a near ideal blend of youthful impetuosity - without ever sounding rushed - allied to a (to my ears) flawless technique which makes light of Prokofiev’s demands. Coaxed and supported beautifully by Pappano and an on-form London Symphony Orchestra, she soars majestically in the many lyrical passages whilst clearly enjoying the pyrotechnics of the lightning-fast scherzo. Here, Pappano’s speeds could have got everyone into trouble; instead, it’s a sensational helter-skelter ride that thrills to the core. He even gets the brass to blaze out with an authentic Russian wobble at
6:05 (tr.2), bringing all those old Melodiya recordings to mind. 

I’ve always stuck by the Chandos disc of this piece from player-scholar Alexander Ivashkin, ably supported by the Russian State Orchestra under Valeri Polyansky, but going back to it now, it seems stodgy and rather unfocused overall, though Ivashkin’s playing is resonant and deeply felt. The Chandos recording from Moscow doesn’t help, sounding cloudy and resonant against the demonstration quality EMI sound from Abbey Road. 

The coupling of another late work, the more familiar Cello Sonata, makes good planning sense, ands whilst not as immediately colourful as the Concerto, it’s full of typical Prokofiev touches. The andante grave opening is brooding and intense; there’s an abundance of lyrical lines throughout as well as plenty of moto perpetuo rhythms to keep the excitement levels up. I had no comparisons to hand, but can’t imagine a more deeply felt or superbly executed performance than this. Chang’s playing is once again taut and ardent, and Pappano’s accompaniment sounds authentically weighty and grand. 

Documentation is poor, as with so many superbudget reissues, but if you like this composer’s music, this really is not to be missed at this price. 

Tony Haywood 

 


 


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