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8.550381 - PROKOFIEV, S.: Orchestral Suites (Slovak State Philharmonic, Mogrelia)
Sergey Prokofiev (1891 - 1953)Lieutenant Kijé (Suite Op. 60)
The Love for Three Oranges (Highlights from Suite Op. 33bis)
Romeo and Juliet (from Suites 1 & 2 Op. 64)
Cinderella (Suite No.1 Op. 107)
Sergey Prokofiev was born in 1891 at Sontsovka in the Ukraine, the son of a prosperous estate manager. An only child, his musical talents were fostered by his mother, a cultured amateur pianist, and he tried his hand at composition at the age of five, later being tutored at home by the composer Glière. In 1904, on the advice of Glazunov, his parents allowed him to enter the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he continued his studies as a pianist and as a composer unti11914, owing more to the influence of senior fellow-students Asafyev and Myaskovsky than to the older generation of teachers, represented by Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Even as a student Prokofiev had begun to make his mark as a composer, arousing enthusiasm and hostility in equal measure, and inducing Glazunov, now director of the Conservatory, to walk out of a performance of The Scythian Suite, fearing for his sense of hearing. During the war he gained exemption from military service by enrolling as an organ student and after the Revolution was given permission to travel abroad, at first to America, taking with him the scores of The Scythian Suite, arranged from a ballet originally commissioned by Dyagilev, the Classical Symphony and his first Violin Concerto.
Unlike Stravinsky and Rakhmaninov, Prokofiev had left Russia with official permission and with the idea of returning home sooner or later. His stay in the United States of America was at first successful. He appeared as a solo pianist and wrote the opera The Love for Three Oranges for the Chicago Opera. By 1920, however, he had begun to find life more difficult and moved to Paris, where he re-established contact with Dyagilev, for whom he revised The Tale of the Buffoon, a ballet successfully mounted in 1921. He spent much of the next sixteen years in France, returning from time to time to Russia, where his music was still acceptable.
In 1936 Prokofiev decided to settle once more in his native country, taking up residence in Moscow in time for the first official onslaught on music that did not sort well with the political and social aims of the government, aimed in particular at the hitherto successful opera A Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Shostakovich. Twelve years later the name of Prokofiev was to be openly joined with that of Shostakovich in an even more explicit condemnation of formalism, with particular reference now to Prokofiev's opera War and Peace. He died in 1953 on the same day as Joseph Stalin, and thus never benefited from the subsequent relaxation in official policy to the arts.
As a composer Prokofiev was prolific. His operas include the remarkable Fiery Angel, first performed in its entirety in Paris the year after his death, with ballet-scores in Russia for Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella. The last of his seven symphonies was completed in 1952, the year of his unfinished sixth piano concerto. His piano sonatas form an important addition to the repertoire, in addition to his songs and chamber music, film-scores and much else, some works overtly serving the purposes of the state. In style his music is often astringent in harmony, but with a characteristically Russian turn of melody and, whatever Shostakovich may have thought of it, a certain idiosyncratic gift for orchestration that gives his instrumental music a particular piquancy.
The well known music for Lieutenant Kijé was written in 1933 for a film, the first of a number of highly successful film-scores that Prokofiev was to write during the next ten years. Directed by Alexander Feinzimmer and based on a story by Yuri Tynyanov, the film is a satire on official stupidity and subservience, set in the time of Tsar Paul, son of Catherine the Great. A clerical error adds a non-existent officer to a list presented to the Tsar, who then singles out this man, Lieutenant Kijé, for special notice. The officials are too afraid to reveal the true state of affairs, and the fictitious lieutenant goes on from honour to honour, interrupted only by temporary disgrace and exile to Siberia, subsequent pardon and promotion to the rank of general. He is finally buried in an empty coffin. Prokofiev arranged the Suite from Lieutenant Kijeé in 1934.
The opera The Love for Three Oranges, is based on a play by the 18th century Venetian writer Carlo Gozzi, originally designed as a riposte to his rival Goldoni. Prokofiev wrote his own libretto, based on a Russian version given him by its co-author Vsevolod Meyerhold in Petrograd, and completed the work in 1919. It was first staged, after some two years delay, at the Chicago Opera in 1921. The story is of an opera in which initial attempts to induce the melancholy Prince to laugh are thwarted by Fata Morgana. His first sign of mirth, when the wicked fairy stumbles, leads to her curse, condemning him to search for three oranges, guarded by a bass giantess. The oranges are found in a kitchen, taken to the desert and opened to reveal inside a beautiful maiden. The first two die of thirst, but the third is saved by timely intervention of the stage audience with a bucket of water. She becomes the Prince's bride, although momentarily turned into a rat, before the happy conclusion of the piece. The present excerpts include the well known March, the Scherzo from the third act and the music for the happy denouement.
The ballet-score Romeo and Juliet was originally intended for the Leningrad State Academic Theatre, renamed the Kirov in 1934, when the projected ballet was rejected, to be taken over by Moscow's Bolshoy but turned down as undanceable by the management in the following year, after the preparation of the piano score. Completed in 1936, it was first staged in Brno in 1938 and only mounted in Russia by the Kirov Ballet in 1940 and by the Bolshoy in 1946. The present recording includes the Act I Madrigal from the first of the three suites that Prokofiev made from the score for concert use, and the Dance of the Girls with the Lilies from the third act, the prelude to the discovery of Juliet, apparently dead on the morning of her wedding.
Cinderella (Zolushka) was written during the war, between 1940 and 1944, and staged at the Bolshoy in 1945. The Kirov, evacuated to Perm in the Urals, had originally proposed to mount the work, but there were delays, in good part the result of restrictions of space in the small provincial theatre then available. In three acts, the ballet follows the commonly accepted Western European version of the story of Cinderella, with its comic and grotesque elements exaggerated. The first of the three suites that the composer drew from the score opens with the Introduction to Act I, followed by the inserted quarrel between the Ugly Sisters, here known as Skinny and Fatty. The Fairy Godmother and Winter Fairy bring encouragement and Cinderella goes to the ball. The Waltz and Midnight end the first act, as Cinderella beats a hasty retreat.
Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raft. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.
Andrew Mogrelia is Music Director of the Leamington Chamber Orchestra, which he founded in 1977.
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