Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 – 1953)
Piano Transcriptions
Three Pieces from Cinderella, op.95 (1942) [10:35]
Ten Pieces from Cinderella, op.97 (1943) [18:56]
Six Pieces from Cinderella, op.102 (1944) [20:40]
Symphony No.1 in D, Classical, op.25 (1917) [14:28]
Temirzhan Yerzhanov (piano)
rec 20/21 May 2005, Mosfilm Studio, Moscow
CON BRIO CBR 28454 [64:53]

Prokofiev’s three act ballet Cinderella occupied him from 1940 to 1944. He put it aside for two years after the German invasion of his homeland and concentrated on his score for War and Peace. It’s scored for a fairly large orchestra and plays for about 100 minutes. This music is not for children, for it is spiky and acidic in places and, perhaps, shows us the seamy side of the fairy-tale! It’s interesting that these three “suites” were created as Prokofiev worked on the composition of the ballet whereas the three orchestral suites – opp.107, 108 and 109 – all follow the first production of the work, in 1946. And they are proper transcriptions, not simply piano arrangements which the composer could use to play to the choreographer or the conductor from the Bolshoi prior to the premičre.

They are certainly not easy to play, nor are they an easy listen, as I wrote above, this is not children’s music in any way, and the insalubrious side of life is often evoked. Attractive as this music is, despite what Prokofiev is describing in his music it is always approachable (for adults!), I do have a problem with these transcriptions. Lacking the orchestral colour they are far too similar to give a satisfying variety of pieces. The orchestral suites are most attractive but here I am afraid the dances and scenes simply loose their appeal. It may be partly the fault of both the pianist and the recording.

Yerzhanov is obviously a fine pianist and it’s astonishing what he manages to get his fingers round on this disk! If the Symphony isn’t wholly successful here this is because it’s impossible to play the music at the required tempi, it is not the fault of the performer. However, I do feel that Yerzhanov has something to do with my dissatisfaction with the Cinderella pieces. He tends to hit the piano with fingers of steel and even in a more relaxed number, such as the Adagio (the last of the op.97 suite), there is insufficient give and take and the music is hard and totally unaffecting. I find his approach somewhat insistent and unrelenting. Yerzhanov isn’t helped by the recording which is very close with no feel of the room in which it was recorded.

There is no doubting Yerzhanov’s abilities as a pianist – he is obviously headed for great things, and deservedly so, for his is a prodigious technique but I don’t feel that he has been well served here nor is he heard at his best. Oddly, there are no notes to speak of, just a few sentences on the back of the front inlay.

Currently there appears to be no single disk available which contains all these Cinderella transcriptions, so we must be grateful for this disk closing that gap.

Bob Briggs