Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Absolut Prokofiev

February 22, 2012:
Non-musicans often think of arrangements as being analogous to translations, and we're inclined to worry about what's "lost" in the process. But the adaptive re-use of music might be done for all sorts of practical or artistic reasons, and there is often something gained as well. In the case of Vadim Borisovsky's arrangements for viola & piano of Prokofiev's amazing Romeo & Juliet ballet, I think a better analogue is "distillation". If these clever arrangements don't exactly bring out the "essence" of the score, which is one of the greatest and most colourful orchestral works of the 20th century, they distill some of the many moods of Shakespeare's original work, as they were so imaginatively re-imagined by Prokofiev.

This new Naxos disc of Borisovsky's arrangements includes three additional movements, transcribed by David Grunes and Matthew Jones, and all the pieces have been reordered to follow the original ballet score. The choice of viola and piano works well for the more neo-classical scenes, which can sound like movements from an angular trio-sonata. The more romantic scenes take advantage of the full expressive range of the viola (and in a couple of cases, two violas) and the complete dramatic arsenal of the pianist. The Dance of the Knights is amazing: the viola provides so many different sounds through different bowing techniques and the full range of the viola, ncluding harmonics. This is a rich re-orchestration!

Violists Matthew Jones and Rivka Golani and pianist Michael Hampton provide passion and expertise in equal parts. They really convinced me of the value of this music!

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