Notes and Editorial Reviews
While this Prokofiev anniversary year (the 50th of his death in 1953) has brought few if any live concert celebrations of the composer, there have been a handful of notable CD releases. Following Decca's complete Romeo and Juliet ballet (with Ashkenazy) comes this engaging new recording of Suites 1-3 from Telarc. Paavo Järvi leads fresh and vital performances that register most effectively in the score's more upbeat numbers. It is these that Järvi seems most attuned to, and the overall sunny cast of his reading underlines the youthfulness of the drama's main protagonists. This lightness is in marked contrast to Neeme Järvi's renditions of these very same suites on Chandos. The father is more attuned to the dark undertones
that lie just beneath the music's bright surface, so that you're never unaware of the tragedy that is to come. Paavo knows it's there too, but he prefers to cross that bridge when he comes to it. Thus, the faster dance numbers (Folk Dance, Morning Dance) have a lightness and snap that's quite invigorating, while in the love music (particularly the Balcony scene) the passion is immediate and strongly felt yet remains relatively close to the surface.
Where Järvi must yield to his dad is in the sheer ferocity the elder brings to the ballet's more violent scenes. Even so, Paavo's light, tight approach has a potency all its own. Death of Tybalt is bracing, while the opening to Suite No. 2 (Montagues and Capulets) erupts with crushing impact. This is one of the many powerful passages captured with full dynamic fidelity by Telarc's wide-ranging recording, which presents a solidly three-dimensional, cleanly balanced sonic image of the Cincinnati Symphony. Good thing too, because the orchestra's strongly projected, highly polished, and rhythmically alert yet graceful playing makes it the real star of this disc. Prokofiev's three suites include virtually all of the ballet's main thematic material (minus the repeated numbers), so buying this disc means you'll pretty much have all the Romeo & Juliet you'll need. It also means you'll enjoy more than 75 minutes of marvelous music--brilliantly conducted, beautifully played, and stunningly recorded.
[Note on the SACD: This is one of Telarc's finer efforts, and although the stereo version is outstanding, DSD multichannel format offers greater front to back depth, enhanced clarity, and a real sense of room acoustic. This is particularly interesting because many of Telarc's productions from this venue tend to sound somewhat flat in perspective. Not here! If you have SACD playback capability, then that's the way to go. --David Hurwitz]
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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