Prokofiev: October Revolution Cantata; The Tale of the Stone Flower (excerpts)

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: October Revolution Cantata; The Tale of the Stone Flower (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Gennady Rozhdestvensky (speaker)Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9095 DDD
Six months after the last of the Prokofiev centenary celebrations had died away, Neeme Järvi caught us unawares with a blistering concert performance of this one-off cantata. Even in the colder light of recording, his faith in it as more than a propaganda exercise is affirmed above all by those very movements suppressed in the handful of Brezhnev-era performances – settings of texts by Stalin in which the composer sneaks his own response between the lines. Grating harmonies and chill orchestration in the finale freeze the leader’s praise of blood shed in a good cause and the promise of a bright future for peasantry and intelligentsia. Järvi – no thankful recipient of the communist legacy – makes painfully sure that the right note of Mussorgskyan lament sounds loud and clear.

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The rest mixes broad, distinctive melody with the crude mechanics of revolution (including accordion band and a megaphoned four lines from that other musical survivor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky). It was rather more exhilarating live: the Philharmonia Chorus in particular sounds thinner in the difficult acoustics of All Saints, Tooting. David Nice