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Prokofiev: Eugene Onegin / Downes, West, Sinfonia 21

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10541   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Katherine FugeSamuel WestJulian WalkerDominic Mafham,   ... 
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Company SingersSinfonia 21
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although Järvi presided over the lion's share of the Chandos Prokofiev, Edward Downes entered the lists for the complete Onegin music. When the BBC were celebrating Prokofiev and Pushkin in 1980 they broadcast an Onegin dramatisation with Prokofiev's music. The conductor, with one of the BBC regional studio orchestras, was Downes who also gave a broadcast talk on the music. He has known the score for many years. It's a neglected lyric gem and as is this recording which runs five or so minutes over two hours. The score was published in Russia in 1973 some 37 years after Prokofiev had finished work.

Sir Charles Johnston's translation of the Pushkin original is in rhymed verses. For the most part the words are neatly and
Read more sometime superbly turned. Occasionally the rhyming scheme is too obviously laboured or one winces with a contrived consonance but overall this is beautiful and poignant. The music has the breath and pulse of romance indeed it races and strolls with delight, musing in ecstasy or threaded with bitterness for tragedy. Echoes of other scores including Romeo and Juliet are interleaved with other inspirations. It is wonderful to have this now at mid-price. However having this as a supplement to the Capriccio set where the text is spoken in Russian is best.

Timothy West is a wonderfully understated speaker who avoids the shoals of reading a rhymed scheme. Sam West is Onegin, Niamh Cusack as Tatyana and Dominic Mafham as Lensky. The silvery playing of the orchestra can best be heard in scene 4. They play under the voices but there is no sense of balance twiddling. The two components - narration and music are achieved with equipoise. Niamh sounds not quite young enough to be Tatyana but this is ripe Prokofiev - at his most lyrical; his most poignant. Rewards are yielded ceaselessly in this melodrama in sixteen scenes. One macabre example is the harpsichord's manic gavotte in tr. 12. If you love the emotionalism and melodic profile of Romeo and Juliet this is a score you must hear.

The full English spoken text is in the booklet. Single width double CD case - with 40pp booklet.

Not to be missed if you need the English version. The Russian somehow as an additional lissom reach and squeeze on the heart.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Evgeny Onegin, Op. 71 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Katherine Fuge (Soprano), Samuel West (Voice), Julian Walker (Bass),
Dominic Mafham (Voice), Niamh Cusack (Voice), Helena McCarthy (Voice),
Andrew Rutt (Bass), Terrence Hardiman (Voice)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Company Singers,  Sinfonia 21
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; USSR 
Length: 120 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: : Timothy West.
Liner Note Author: Edward Downes. 

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