On this disc we have a third time release of a classic collection
of the Prokofiev Violin Concertos, plus the Sonata for Two Violins.
Looked at another way this disc roughly covers the years in which
the composer was an exile from Russia, mostly in America and France. The concertos
were first released in 1982, re-released almost twenty years later
and are now available again on EMI Classics. Perlman was already
well-established in 1982, but he had not developed some of the
more mature approach he shows today.
the first concerto Perlman and Rozhdestvensky start off in a
rather relaxed fashion-almost too much so, although Rozhdestvensky
knows how to get everything out of the accompaniment. Most of
the playing could be described as more satirical than poignant,
although towards the end everyone livens up and the coda is
truly magical. The scherzo is perhaps where we would expect
the satire from first movement to be, but there is not as much
as there could be. Perlman’s technique here is wonderful, but
the sound of his playing is quite squeaky, mostly due to the
venue, of which more later. The last movement demonstrates why
Perlman is renowned: the playing is both assured and subtle.
Indeed, all the problems that have occurred before vanish here.
performance of the second concerto is much sharper and more
emotionally straightforward. The second theme of the opening
movement is beautifully played, although the development is
a little rushed, a problem that intermittently continues to
the end of the movement. In the Andante Perlman again injects
more satire than one would expect, but there is also a lot of
the charm that one expects from him. The pacing of the last
movement is quite good and Perlman’s playing is very lyrical,
with a searching central section.
sonatas are much less common than concertos, but Prokofiev's
is surely the best known within this limited genre, at least
for the 20th century. This recording was made even
earlier than the concertos, in 1976 and the Temple Church acoustic proves unkind to Perlman in the first movement. His partner
in the recording is longtime friend and colleague Pinchas Zukerman
and he does not fare so badly. In the Allegro second movement
the friends’ playing is first-rate, a true ensemble, and the
two of them bring out a range of emotion not always heard in
this piece. In the Commodo movement they are not quite as together
as in the second movement, but each produces beautiful sounds.
The complete ensemble returns in the last movement, with an
additional satirical element.
accompaniment is totally idiomatic, not only for obvious national
and historical reasons, but because he has long been one of
our most valuable musical assets. As mentioned above the usually
excellent Temple Church does not come through this time in the area of acoustics. The Kingsway
Hall does no better with orchestral works, all of which is surprising
as we know that the “golden age” producers and engineers did
their best and that we have few such technical talents nowadays.
It is something of a mystery, even at the remove of thirty years.
While I know this disc is considered a classic I cannot heartily
recommended it as “the” disc to have of these pieces due to
the variance of some of the playing and recording.