ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Prokofiev - Orchestral Suites


SERGEI PROKOFIEV - Suite from Lieutenant KijÚ - Suite from The Love for Three Oranges - The Ugly Duckling - Vladimir Ashkenazy (Conductor) - Sydney Symphony Orchestra - 4526977050498 - Released: March 2011 - Exton 00049

Three distinctive works by Sergei Prokofiev that all share comical, fairy tale, childish fantasy elements, but were all written for different reasons. The music of Lieutenant KijÚ was written for a film based on this fictitious story (that movie, directed by Feinzimmer, can still be found online). Prokofiev reduced it to a symphonic suite in 1934. The music for The Love for Three Oranges was written for a comic opera, and then reduced to an orchestral suite in 1924. The Ugly Duckling, an earlier work from around the same time as the famous Scythian Suite, was conceived as a 'symphonic poem for voice and piano', and eventually revised for full orchestra much later in 1932.

Besides the Ugly Duckling, Prokofiev pieces that are very familiar to everyone. I myself grew up with the KijÚ suite, as it was the extra work on my LP of Peter and the Wolf. But it's one of those great pieces of music you never tire of listening to, and it is good to hear it in this recording with the original text from the story, sung perfectly by baritone Andrei Laptev. We are usually served the strictly instrumental version. And of course, the March from the Three Oranges suite is always a thrill to hear.

So why should you consider yet another recording of these oft recorded works. Well, if you like the idea of sitting front row center, and having a full symphony orchestra all to yourself, that should be a good enough reason. The Japanese Exton label is an audiophile label, and this HQ Super Audio Hybrid CD recording, played on my plain old stereo system, is a joy to listen to. I can't even imagine how real it would sound on a high-end SACD setup. From the loudest orchestral tuttis to the softest snare drum roll at the end of KijÚ, you can almost feel the air around the sound, the energy released by the instruments, with plenty of headroom to spare. And as we all know, conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy is no slouch and is more than competent in this Russian repertoire. Treat yourself!

Jean-Yves Duperron - March 2011