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 Recording of the Week  Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet

One of Valery Gergiev’s first recordings - made about twenty years ago - was of the complete ballet score of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet with the Kirov Orchestra. It was to be the first of many important Prokofiev recordings he made with the Kirov, which included a number of the composer's operas and the Piano Concertos (with pianist Alexander Toradze). In 2004 he continued his championing of Prokofiev's works with a complete cycle of the Symphonies, this time with the LSO. That set was widely acclaimed and went on to win a Gramophone Award. Soon afterwards he was appointed principal conductor of the LSO, and he has now returned to the fantastic Romeo and Juliet ballet score with them, which has just been released on the orchestra's own LSO Live label.

Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev

The first thing to say is that it is a brilliant work, both tuneful and vividly descriptive, able to depict anything from the violence of the feuding families to the poetic nightscape of the balcony scene. Although quite familiar from the three suites extracted from it, the complete two-hour twenty minute ballet score is only rarely performed outside the theatre so the opportunity to hear a world class orchestra like the LSO under a conductor with such a natural affinity to the composer's music is a rare one, and this very competitively priced recording is not to be missed.

The LSO play with real passion and energy throughout and every section of the orchestra is superb. The brass are rich and lyrical, noble and melodic or snarling and angry depending on the demands of the music, while the woodwind are on fine form throughout, commenting expressively on the action or portraying the emotions of the characters. The LSO strings fully justify their world-renowned status - soaring passionately and tugging at your heartstrings, and flying through the technically demanding passages at great speed with apparent ease.

All in all it is a superb reading of Prokofiev's supreme masterpiece, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout. I’ve put on a video trailer of the famous Dance of the Knights, which shows off the orchestra brilliantly. It is slightly faster than you’d often hear but I think works very well at this speed. I suppose some people might say that it sounds too dance-like and not imposing enough, but dramatically I think it is far more powerful, and the contrasts to the slower and quieter sections are far more vivid. It is worth also mentioning while I’m on the subject of Gergiev and Prokofiev that Decca are releasing a budget priced box set of six of his great opera recordings next month which represents fantastic value - full details via the link below.

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64

London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Prokofiev - 6 Operas

Kirov Opera & Orchestra & Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Valery Gergiev

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC