Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Classical Symphony in D, Op. 25a. Violin Concerto No. 1in D, Op. 19b. Romeo and Juliet c - Suite No. 1, Op. 64a; Suite No. 2, Romeo at Juliet's grave. Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 - The field of the deadd. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26e. Visions fugitives, Op. 22 (excerpts) f. Symphony No. 5 in B flat, Op. 100g.
aChamber Orchestra of Europe/Claudio Abbado; bSchlomo Mintz (violin); bChicago Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado; cNational Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C./Mstislav Rostropovich; dElena Obraztsova (mezzo); dLondon Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado; eMartha Argerich (piano); eBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado; fSviatoslav Richter (piano); gCleveland Orchestra/Lorin Maazel. Recorded 1965-90.
DG Panorama 469 172-2 [ADD/abcDDD] [150'08]

Definitely more thumbs up than thumbs down. This 'Panorama' release is intelligently chosen as far as repertoire concerned, my only qualm being that the six-minute excerpt from Alexander Nevsky appears a bit lonely all by itself, despite Obraztsova's big, Slavic sound.

Appropriately enough, the set opens with Abbado's clean, charmingly suave Classical Symphony. It acts as the perfect opener: rhythms are bright and pointed, the Gavotte has bags of character and the finale is pure, infectious fun. Mintz's 1984 account of the First Violin Concerto, which follows, is big-toned and dramatic. The soloist displays astonishing virtuosity in the vivacissimo Scherzo.

The other concerto included outshines even this, however. Martha Argerich's fiery, caution-to-the-wind Third Piano Concerto, first issued in 1968, has lost none of its gripping power in the intervening years. Argerich's fingerwork is crystalline and the ensemble is unfailingly precise. Richter's Visions fugitives are perfectly-formed interpretations and cram more of the essence of Prokofiev into their two-and-a-half minutes than the Clevelanders under Maazel can muster in the whole of the Fifth Symphony. In particular, Maazel's first movement lacks the cumulative power to sustain it and the finale is, basically, faceless. Finally, extracts from Rostropovich's Romeo and Juliet with the Washington orchestra fail to get to the heart of this emotive music, despite moments of tenderness.

The Classical Symphony and both of the concertos make this a thoroughly worthwhile investment, however.

Colin Clarke

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