Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Symphony No. 1 (Classical); Visions fugitives (excerpts, arr. Barshai)

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Symphony No. 1 (Classical); Visions fugitives (excerpts, arr. Barshai)
PERFORMER: Ilya Grubert (violin)Moscow CO/Constantine Orbelian
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9615
Of these two performances of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto one is routine, the other compelling. A comparison of the opening bars shows how one soloist can take a meandering train of thought and spin it out into a melody of exquisite beauty, whereas the other merely plays the notes. Perhaps this is a bit hard on Ilya Grubert, for his notes are perfectly adequate, but in competition with Anne Akiko Meyers he doesn’t stand a chance. Following the ebb and flow of the music Meyers produces a marvellous variety of tone, switching from a high fluting sound to a rich woody bass, and multiple shades in between, with consummate ease. In the quirky, volatile scherzo, she gaily sacrifices this hard-won sweetness for a rollicking, almost carefree approach.

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This is playing of rare sensitivity which seems perfectly in tune with the lyrical and contemplative nature of the concerto. Grubert’s conventional brilliance is perhaps closer to what you might expect of Prokofiev, but the result is not nearly so appealing.

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Thereafter, the two discs diverge. Meyers goes on to bring similar insight to the Second Concerto, although with its more conventional, full-blooded character it could be said less to deserve it. Grubert bows out and leaves the Moscow Chamber Orchestra to get on with a somewhat petulant account of the Visions fugitives and a crisp rattle through the Classical Symphony. Christopher Lambton