(1891-1953) Piano Transcriptions by Sergei Prokofiev
Three pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 95 (1942) [10:35]
Ten pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 97 (1943) [18:56]
Six pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 102 (1944) [20:40]
Symphony No. 1 Classical, Op.25 [14:28]
rec. Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, 20-21 May 2005
CON BRIO RECORDINGS CBR 28454 [64:53]
This is the second solo album from Temirzhan Yerzhanov. The
first was focused on Schumann. Yerzhanov, currently London-based,
was born in Kazakhstan and is apparently the first pianist from
that country to reach the international stage. He did this after
winning the First Prize and Gold Medal at the XI International
Robert Schumann Piano Competition in Zwickau in 1993. The disc
provides minimal documentation: one little page. Three-quarters
of it is taken up with describing the career of the pianist.
As for the rest Yerzhanov tells us about Prokofiev's stay in
Kazakhstan during the World War II years.
The program is interesting: all three Cinderella suites
transcribed by the composer, plus a transcription of the Classical
Symphony, also made by Prokofiev himself. The Symphony transcription,
astonishingly, was never recorded before - at least, so the
notes say - though the Gavotte is programmed occasionally. Certainly
we can't blame the quality of the transcription: it is lively
and exciting, and adequately presents the character of the symphony.
Comparing it to the two-piano transcription made by Terashima
and played by Argerich and Bronfman on the Lugano Festival collection
(EMI), I cannot say that two additional hands really bring a
new dimension; it's all there already in the two-hands version,
which in my opinion deserves a better circulation.
The Suites flow naturally one after the other: the solemn Op.95,
then the divertimento-like Op.97, and finally the gorgeous Op.
102 with its two heavenly waltzes and the concluding Amoroso.
My guess is that the suites were conceived in this succession
from the very start, as a set: otherwise, why would Prokofiev
leave out the "big tunes" for so long? It is not easy
to find the complete suites on disc. For example, Olli Mustonen
(Ondine) omits one piece from Op.97 and three (out of six) from
Regarding the performance itself: sure enough, Yerzhanov certainly
ranks as a virtuoso. He conveys the air of effortlessness throughout.
Every note is clear and distinctive, not a single sound is "swallowed",
and all voices are heard crystal clear. A person with good ears
could probably restore the score from this recording. However
qualities that would probably do well in Mozart - and I definitely
would love to hear Yerzhanov play Mozart - does not seem to
work everywhere in Prokofiev. The result is not as charming
as it could and should be. O waltz, where is thy wave? O clock,
where is thy menace? All looks even and flattened out - and
what is Prokofiev without contrast?
Maybe it's the fault of the transcription, which is rather business-like
in places, but I feel that the magic has gone. The fragrance
of the orchestral score, the breath, the enchantment, the expectation
of the fairy-tale, like in the "Nutcracker" when the
tree starts to grow ... The recording is clear, the dynamic
range is not wide, and you are constantly aware of the existence
of those little hammers that bang-bang-bang on the strings inside
the wooden box. After listening to Yerzhanov's disc, I put on
Argerich and Pletnev performing Pletnev's two-piano "Cinderella"
transcription (on DG) - and yes, it can be done with
piano sound. And then I put on the Volodos disc on Sony. There
he only does the Gavotte, Orientalia and Waltz,
from the same source and yes, these transcriptions can
breathe. There is dark matter in "Cinderella", it's
not all whipped cream. Still, the more "spark and glimmer"
parts, as is the case with almost all of the Op.97 Suite, are
served perfectly well. The opening Pavane (Op.95 No.1)
is also very atmospheric, but somewhere in the middle of the
ensuing Gavotte the nuances just disappear.
Predictably, the Classical Symphony fares much better
under this approach: it is as quick and sparkling as one could
wish. All rolls wonderfully for three and a half parts - until,
in the middle of the Finale, the choo-choo train unexpectedly
slows down quite noticeably, and continues like that for some
time, gradually returning to the first tempo. I can't compare
this to other interpretations due to their apparent absence,
but I never heard such a thing in orchestral versions. It sounds
as if if the pianist slowed down on a difficult segment, and
then, returning to the more familiar ground, accelerated back.
Argerich and Bronfman maintain the same tempo throughout the
part. I can't be sure the tempo mark is not in the score, but
it was rather disturbing to hear, and spoilt the enjoyment of
an otherwise fine performance.
All in all, an excellent program - and not available elsewhere
- but it looks as if the pianist decided to cut the romanticism
out of music which is inherently romantic. This low-cholesterol
style suits only part of the program - especially the Op.97
Suite and the Classical Symphony.
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