Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 (extracts)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 (extracts)
PERFORMER: RLPO/Libor Pesek
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59278 2 DDD
Prokofiev finished the score for Romeo and Juliet in 1935, just one year after he had decided to return to the Soviet Union for good. But he had to wait three years before it was staged. In the meantime he arranged some of the music into two suites, which is how the music is usually heard on disc and in the concert hall. One point in favour of this new recording is that it returns to the original ballet score, and presents 22 of the original 52 movements in their original order.

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This preserves the narrative shape, which in principle is a very good idea. But where is the sense of drama that should go with it? This is a strangely restrained, pastel-shaded view of a story that should be portrayed in the strongest possible oil-colours. The famous ‘Knight’s Dance’, which should summon up all the pageantry, colour, and high-stepping pride of Renaissance Italy sounds oddly muffled. Similarly the hammer-blows leading into the Cortège that ends Act II.

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The string sound tends to lack warmth and intensity. The delicate moments, such as Juliet and Paris’s dance, work well, and the numerous woodwind solos are sensitively done. But compared to a really full-blooded performance, such as Maazel’s with the Cleveland Orchestra, this one seems dispassionate and distant. Ivan Hewett