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CD REVIEW

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Mahler symphony 6 Nott


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Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Lieutenant Kije, suite Op.60 (1933) [21:14]
Dreams, Op.6 (1910) [11:01]
Andante, Op.50bis (1931) [8:18]
Autumnal, Op.8 (1911) [6:52]
The Stone Flower, suite Op. 118 (1951) [30:42]
Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 10 December 1985 (Dreams), Caird Hall, Dundee, 21-22 August 1989 (rest)
CHANDOS CHAN10481X [78:42]
Experience Classicsonline

Here is yet another excellent budget reissue of various works that originally acted as fillers for the Järvi/Prokofiev symphony cycle of the 1980s. That cycle was – and is – very highly regarded (see review), as were other series devoted to Strauss and Shostakovich, so it’s no surprise that this disc is very desirable at budget price.
 
The most famous item on here is, of course, the suite from Lieutenant Kije, and that is the work that has the severest competition. I grew up on the famous Szell/ Cleveland LP, and remember marvelling at the orchestral precision and flamboyant rhythmic bite of the whole thing. Having not heard it for many years, I can’t honestly say how the RSNO stack up against the Clevelanders, but this is hugely enjoyable on its own terms. Järvi’s approach is not dissimilar to Szell’s; he keeps a tight rein on proceedings but lets the orchestra unleash its full force where required, as at the start of the famous Troika, which then goes at quite a lick. There’s bags of detailed wind and brass playing throughout – that lovely doleful solo cornet at the start – and a sense of fun mingles with the grip Järvi obviously has on the score.
 
The suite from the ballet The Stone Flower is, I suspect, much less well known. In fact, I seem to remember Järvi’s recording as being instrumental in bringing the music to a wider public. It’s mature Prokofiev and, as in many other instances, he created the suites (three of them in the end) because of the shelving of plans to mount the full ballet. This is the first suite, entitled The Wedding Suite – the others were Gypsy Fantasy and Urals Rhapsody – though conductor Jarvi has added other bits from the original to make up a substantial half-hour chunk. Even by this composer’s enviable standard, it’s rife with memorable melodic invention, with glorious soaring melodies – just sample The Amorous Dance (tr.10) to hear what I mean. It’s full of Prokofiev’s best thumbprints – melodic, rhythmic, timbral, instrumental – and is a delight to get to know. I don’t have a comparison to hand – in fact, there aren’t a great deal – but Järvi and his RSNO really lift their game and play with passion, commitment and real flair.
 
The three short items are also well worth having. Both Dreams and Autumnal are extremely early compositions from his conservatory days, and it’s easy to hear Debussy, Scriabin and Rachmaninov in the mix, but there are just those odd glimmers of the mature composer to come. Try them out on your musical friends and see who they come up with. The Andante is a transcription for full strings of the slow movement of the First String Quartet, and it could be argued that it benefits from the fuller textures, especially in the rich and expansive treatment from Järvi and his disciplined RSNO strings.
 
The sound is in the best tradition of the house and still provides demonstration listening on good quality equipment. With excellent notes by Noel Goodwin, this is very easy to favour.
 
Tony Haywood
 

 


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