Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (excerpts)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Romeo and Juliet (excerpts)
PERFORMER: San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68288 2 DDD
Prokofiev himself forged three orchestral suites from Romeo and Juliet, but in doing so made no attempt to follow the drama. This results in a somewhat unsatisfying, ramshackle selection which invariably results in the players dodging about from suite to suite and omitting some of the numbers. On this disc, Michael Tilson Thomas has selected 29 numbers from the ballet and plays them in narrative order, which makes dramatic sense. The ballet is in roughly two parts, with the first acting as a symphonic exposition and the second as a development of the material, much of it based on the leitmotif principle.

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The sound is excellent in this amalgam of recordings from live performances last autumn in San Francisco’s Louise Davies Symphony Hall. The playing is impressively clean in all departments, in particular the strings in the various fights, and there are first-class solos from all concerned. Tilson Thomas (or ‘MTT’ according to the PR) makes some quirky use of rubato, occasionally bordering on the self-indulgent.

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The disc is packaged with Prokofiev consigned to the background, but that’s often the way of things these days. For those familiar only with the usual two suites (the third rarely gets heard) this is a good chance to hear some of the rest of this excellent score. Christopher Fifield