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Prokofiev: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2

Maria Milstein (violin); Phion Orchestra/Otto Tausk (Channel Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Maria Milstein (violin); Phion Orchestra/Otto Tausk
Channel Classics CCS45223   48:28 mins

The name of Milstein is legendary in Prokofiev owing to Nathan’s recordings; Maria may be no relative, but she comes from a musical family of Moscow origins, and her delivery here is high, lucid and bright. Neither concerto begins with quite what I hope to hear; the shimmering mystery of the First and the sombre, unaccompanied low register of the Second perhaps need a touch more atmosphere, a bit less knowingness: the first impression is of a talent more geared to the violinistic than the vocal. But there are evolutions: the second and third appearances of the ethereal theme of the First Concerto are magically done, with special recorded focus on the harp’s crucial contribution, and in the later G minor Concerto, a slow movement melody that’s detached at first rather than serenely otherworldly suddenly takes on a supernatural quality in its piano return; the way Prokofiev kills his darling is spookily guided to the grave of solo clarinet and double bass.

The nearly-equal role played by the other instrumentalists is characterful at every turn; I’d never heard of Phion, otherwise the Orchestra of Gelderland & Overijssel, though quality was assured by its conductor Otto Tausk’s previous recording of these concertos with the enchanting Rosanne Philippens. In league with a crystal-clear recording, the originality of Prokofiev’s scoring is paramount (especially in the lean, Stravinsky-plus scoring of No. 2). The measure is short, though. Outstanding recent recordings have given essential bonuses – the Solo Vioin Sonata from Vadim Gluzman, the same sonata and the Five Melodiesfrom Philippens.

David Nice