Prokofiev, Stravinsky

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev,Stravinsky
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev , Stravinsky
WORKS: Visions fugitives, Op. 22 (arr. Barshai & Balashov); Apollo (1947 version); Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Moscow Soloists/Yuri Bashmet
CATALOGUE NO: 4017
Prokofiev liked to point out that he had pipped Stravinsky to the neoclassical classical post by several years; and in terms of purified melody some of the Visions fugitives of 1915-17 seem to anticipate Stravinsky’s Apollo by more than a decade – at least in the string arrangements of the piano original on parade here. Rudolf Barshai transcribed 15 of the 20 miniatures, so Roman Balashov, viola-player in the Moscow Soloists, has arranged the remaining five, without any perceptible stylistic hiatus. The ‘rainbow colours’ hinted at in Prokofiev’s inspiration, lines by the poet Konstantin Balmont, are fully captured in this chameleonic performance, from ethereal harmonics to the two unquiet numbers (15 and 19) which sound like extra numbers from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s Psycho (not inappropriate: Herrmann was indebted to Prokofiev).

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There are mysteries and passing hints of the numinous in this Apollo, too. Best are the most refined moments: the Pas de deux shares with the Arioso of the Concerto in D a beauty that always remains elusive. Bashmet is not afraid to introduce hesitations and flexibilities which might fox dancers of Balanchine’s glorious choreography, but which certainly work in concert. Singing lines always remain in perfect balance with rhythmic definition, especially impressive as the staccato semiquavers of the Concerto’s concluding Rondo cautiously admit fragments of melody. Some may prefer the opulence of Karajan’s full orchestral strings in the ballet (DG), but the lean Apollonian nimbleness of this Moscow ensemble, cleanly recorded, is surely a more authentic realisation. David Nice