Prokofiev: On the Dnieper; Lieutenant Kijé Suite; Semyon Kotko Suite

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
WORKS: On the Dnieper; Lieutenant Kijé Suite; Semyon Kotko Suite
PERFORMER: Boris Statsenko (baritone); WDR Cologne SO/Michail Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: 999 976-2
These works shed very different lights on Russian themes of the Thirties, a fateful decade for Prokofiev. But with longueurs in all three, and a second disc with only the 42-minute sequence from the Soviet opera Semyon Kotko – not at all a ‘ballet suite’, as advertised – there are many hurdles for the listener to overcome. Michail Jurowski fails to thread together the blanched abstractions and Stravinskian wind choruses of On the Dnieper, though he does bring the first Pas de deux’s unusual melody into the light; there is plenty more yet to be said about this enigmatic but often compelling Parisian hybrid. The most familiar faces of the Kijé Suite pale by comparison with the characterising genius of an Abbado or a Reiner, but Boris Statsenko delivers the two song alternatives with superlative aplomb; a shame their orchestral counterparts have to follow on their heels. Jurowski’s Kotko is warmer – the acoustic here takes us from the dry Cologne studios to the superb concert hall – but sleepier than Gergiev’s (the complete opera on Philips) or Neeme Järvi’s (generally more flexible in the suite on Chandos). Vintage Soviet-era Prokofiev fights for its life under a pall of earnestness, unconvincing without the opera’s strife-torn context. David Nice