A Poet’s Love
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet – excerpts; R Schumann: Dichterliebe
Timothy Ridout (viola), Frank Dupree (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMN916118 53:25 mins
‘Viola d’amore’ might have been the best title for this auspicious debut, risking only confusion with the fragile-voiced multi-stringed instrument of that name. Prokofiev actually features it in the dawn parting music of Romeo and Juliet, included here under the misleading title ‘Juliet’s Death’ (very different in the final number of the ballet). Vadim Borisovsky’s selected arrangements are surprisingly apt, and the young Timothy Ridout imaginatively distinguishes between the lovers – their presence includes a marvellously intimate ‘Balcony Scene’ – street people, strutting Capulets and parrying Mercutio.
His pianist Frank Dupree, another rising star, is the ideal partner, and liberation from the words of Schumann’s Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love) song cycle focuses attention on the wonderful balance the composer establishes for his two artists. I was worried that the repeated notes which serve for verbal highlighting might sound too repetitive on the viola, but Ridout varies them tone-wise, and there’s an especially haunting argument for the alternating vocal recitative and piano responses of ‘Ich hab im Traum geweinet’ (‘I wept in my dream’ – song texts should have been provided in the booklet). Ridout’s transcription makes telling changes of register in the vocal line – bass emphasis is especially startling – and only departs from it once, to play the fiddler at the dance in the ninth song. Should the pair have chosen exclusively viola-and-piano repertoire for their first recording? No – this is supreme vindication of what musical imagination can do, even to works unfamiliar from their original formats.