Notes and Editorial Reviews
This new Decca release shares with the recent Temirkanov/Prokofiev collection on RCA the dubious distinction of having been recorded on the 100th anniversary of Prokofiev's birth, only to be released 12 years later on the 50th anniversary of his death. (As if Prokofiev needs a "special occasion" for anybody to pay him any attention.) This is an important point, mainly because we have before us an excellent Romeo and Juliet, one that listeners could have been enjoying for more than a decade. Vladimir Ashkenazy brings to the score a profoundly Russian sensibility that makes his reading sound ever-fresh and at times quite enthralling. By giving emphasis to the orchestra's low end, he achieves the real "Prokofiev sound",
which underlines the dramatic impact of such numbers as the fearsome Dance of the Knights. On the other hand, his ear for rhythm and orchestral color enlivens the pulse in Folk Dance, Morning Dance, and similar selections.
Ashkenazy wears the music close to his heart, injecting it with much passionate feeling. Listen to how he phrases the Introduction's fetching melody with urgent yearning, a quality that will reappear time and again throughout the performance--particularly in the Balcony Scene (featuring some wonderfully hushed string playing) and most effectively in Juliet's Funeral, where the Royal Philharmonic brass sound wonderfully baleful. In this sense, Ashkenazy's reading is decidedly Old-World--listen to his Tchaikovsky-like treatment of the Act 1 interlude and the Arrival of the Guests--especially compared to Lorin Maazel, who leads Decca's other complete recording. Maazel's bright and brisk performance boasts stunningly virtuosic playing by the Cleveland Orchestra, which sounds more vital and incisive in passages such as Act 2's Duel, and the Death of Tybalt. However, this is no slight to the Royal Philharmonic members, who play handsomely for Ashkenazy, providing the same level of commitment and refinement they displayed in their many other recordings with this conductor. Decca's sound is warm, spacious, and detailed, with impressive dynamic range (by comparison, the Maazel is beginning to show its 30-plus years). This one's a winner. It's just a shame we had to wait so long. [6/24/2003]
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 by Sergei Prokofiev
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1935-1936; Paris, France
Date of Recording: 1991
Venue: Walthamstow Hall, London, England
Length: 141 Minutes 28 Secs.
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