About this Recording
8.553273 - PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet (Highlights) / Cinderella Suite No. 1
English 

Sergey Prokofiev(1891 - 1953)

Romeo and Juliet, Ballet (Highlights)
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 until 1914, 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 Rachmaninov, 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 Districtby 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 characteristica1ly 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 ballet Romeo and Juliet,based on Shakespeare's play, was suggested to Prokofiev during a visit to Russia in 1934 on the suggestion of the stage-director Sergey Radlov, who had staged the first Russian performance of The Love for Three Oranges in Leningrad in 1926. Radlov was artistic director of the Leningrad State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, which in late 1934 became the Kirov Theatre, after the assassination of Sergey Kirov, party secretary in the Leningrad area and later a member of the Politburo. The murder of Kirov brought the beginning of the Great Purge and there were swift changes in the Leningrad Theatre that led to the rejection of Prokofiev's proposed ballet, which was then taken up by the Bolshoy in Moscow.

Prokofiev completed the piano score in a relatively short time, occupying himself with the work during the summer months of 1935 spent at Tarussa, where other members of the Bolshoy Theatre had holiday accommodation. By October he had started work on the orchestration, but when he played the music through in Moscow to the dancers they pronounced it undanceable. More sensibly they insisted that the happy ending that Prokofiev had proposed should be replaced by the original Shakespearean tragic conclusion and the death of the lovers, an episode the composer had at first considered impossible in a ballet.

In the event music from Romeo and Juliet was given concert performance in Russia before the ballet could be staged there. The first production was, in fact, in the Moravian provincial capital of Brno in December 1938. Thirteen months later it was danced at the Kirov, with Ulanova as Juliet and Sergeyev as Romeo. The choreography was by Lavrovsky, who annoyed the composer by making changes in the score without previous consultation, a procedure very different from that of the reputedly dictatorial Dyagilev, who had always discussed matters with his composers and choreographers. The Kirov took the production to Moscow, where, in 1946, it became part of the Bolshoy repertoire.

The three suites that Prokofiev arranged from the complete ballet do not follow the order of events in the tragedy itself. The present recording makes use of excerpts from the suites of what is, after all, a very episodic ballet, re-ordered as far as possible in the original dramatic form. This opens with Romeo at the fountain, taken from the Introduction and the second number of the complete, ballet score. This is followed by the introduction of Tybalt, a Capulet and sworn enemy to Romeo and the Montagues. The Morning Dance from Act I follows. The young heroine Juliet is shown in an ante-room in the Capulet house, with her nurse, an amiable busybody. The Capulet's guests arrive at the ball to the sound of a Minuet, proceeding to the Masks, and the intrusion of Romeo and his friends, enemies of the house in their endless feuding. The episode generally known as Montagues and Capulets is the Prince's Order and the Dance of the Knights at the Capulet ball, where Juliet, dancing with her betrothed , Paris, first sees her Romeo. The famous Balcony Scene, in which Romeo declares himself to Juliet, and the Love Dance follow the departure of the guests. When Mercutio, Romeo's friend and kinsman, is killed, Romeo is compelled to take revenge by killing the murderer, Juliet's kinsman tybalt, thus precipitating the final tragedy. Romeo is banished from Verona in this final scene of the second act.

In the third act Friar Laurence tries to help the couple and is here visited by Romeo. The Friar gives Juliet a potion which, if taken, will give the appearance of death. By feigning death she will be able to avoid marriage to Paris, a match on which her parents insist. The parting of the lovers combines the scene in Juliet's chamber, the farewell itself and an Interlude. In the Epilogue Romeo, who knows nothing of the plot, returns secretly from banishment and finds Juliet seemingly dead and laid in the tomb. The music for Romeo at the tomb of Juliet is that for Juliet's funeral in the complete ballet. In grief he takes his own life and when Juliet revives and finds her lover dead she follows his example, stabbing herself with his dagger.

The commission for Cinderella came from the Kirov Ballet in 1940, soon after their production of Romeo and Juliet. In the early part of 1941 Prokofiev was absorbed in the composition of the new ballet, which he explained should be as danceable as possible, conceived in the traditions of the classical ballet, with pas de deux, variations and waltzes. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June diverted his attention to the composition of an opera based on Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Cinderella was not finished until 1944. It was first staged at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow on 21st November 1945. Several months later Prokofiev arranged three orchestral suites from the ballet, basing them largely on the pieces transcribed for solo piano, Opus 95 and Opus 97. He explained that the suites were not simply mechanical excerpts from the original score but had been reworked and recast in symphonic form. Although the basic ideas remain the same, there are changes in orchestration and subtle variations in tempi, with fragmentary ideas from the score condensed into short movements of melodic and virtuosic ingenuity.

Suite No.1 opens with an Introduction that presents two of the themes directly associated with Cinderella, the first sad in character and the second suggesting her dreams of happiness. In the Pas de chale and Quarrel the Ugly Sisters are embroidering a shawl for the ball at the Prince's palace. The dance turns into a squabble, as they quarrel as to who should wear it. The Winter Fairy, who completes Cinderella' s transformation, is heard before the Fairy Godmother, whose magic changes Cinderella into a beautiful princess. The Mazurka precedes the entry of the Prince at the grand ball in the palace, while Cinderella goes to the ball finds her about to leave for the palace, warned by her Fairy Godmother of the one condition she must remember. Cinderella's Waltz leads to Midnight, as the clock strikes twelve and Cinderella rushes away, realising that the spell is now broken.

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)
The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovak, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. 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 many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, known under several different names in the present century, has long had a special relationship with the music of Prokofiev. Once his international reputation was established, he often returned to his native Ukraine, whether as soloist or conductor or as a musician whose works formed the principal repertoire of a concert. There are those who still recall his return in 1927 as an accomplished composer, now sitting in the audience and listening to young David Oistrakh perform his Violin Concerto No.1 for the first time. So upset was the composer by what he heard that he immediately went on stage, when the work was finished, and spent several hours sitting at the orchestra piano, criticizing the minutest details of the performance by both soloist and orchestra. In spite of this, Prokofiev returned again to Kiev until the circumstances of the Second World War and his final illness prevented him from doing so. Nevertheless musicians who were responsible for the first performances of many of Prokofiev' s works during the final ten years of his life often travelled to Kiev to work with the orchestra. Mravinsky came with the Sixth Symphony, as did Samosoud with the Seventh. Other conductors and soloists involved in first performances of music by Prokofiev and who worked with the Kiev orchestra include Gauk, Malko, Neuhaus, Oistrakh, Rachlin, Richter and Rozhdestvensky.

The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and Theodore Kuchar have continued the long association with the orchestral works of Prokofiev both in concert in Kiev and on tour. In addition to recording the complete cycle of Prokofiev symphonies, the orchestra has given the first performance in Kiev of a number of works by the composer that remained rarely performed under the Soviet regime as a result of their "Western" origins, works that include the Second, Third and Fourth Symphoniesand the ballets The Prodigal Son and On the Dnieper, all of which have subsequently been recorded for Naxos.

Andrew Mogrelia
Andrew Mogrelia is Conductor-in-Residence at the Birmingham Conservatoire and from 1992 to 1994 was Co-Music Director of the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. He has worked extensively in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands in particular. His recordings include a number of releases for Naxos, Donau, Lydian and Marco Polo and he has conducted recent concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and with the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague, as well as with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Theodore Kuchar
The Ukrainian conductor Theodore Kuchar is currently artistic director and principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, continuing an association that began in 1992 with his appointment as principal guest conductor of the then Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra. He is also artistic director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, a position he has held since 1990. His professional career began as a principal violist in leading orchestras of Cleveland and Helsinki, followed by appearances as a soloist and chamber musician in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and the former Soviet Union. In 1980, at the age of twenty, Theodore Kuchar was awarded the Boston Symphony Orchestra Paul Fromm Fellowship, allowing study at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein, Colin Davis, Seiji Ozawa and André Previn. After international appearances as a guest conductor, he was appointed, soon after his Australian debut in 1987, music director of the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra in Brisbane, while also serving until 1993 as music director of the West Australian Ballet in Perth. In 1989 he was awarded a bronze medal by the Finnish government for services to Finnish music, while in 1994 he played in the world premiere of Penderecki's String Trio in New York. His recordings as a conductor include a number of important works for Naxos and Marco Polo, among which his recording of the second and third symphonies of Lyatoshynsky for Marco Polo was declared International Record of the Year in 1994 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Under his direction the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine has become one of the most frequently recorded of the former Soviet Union, with recordings of the complete symphonies of Kalinnikov and Prokofiev, in addition to those of Lyatoshynsky and of major works by de Beriot, Dvotak, Glazunov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Shchedrin, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, as well as the symphonies and orchestral works of Ukraine's leading contemporary symphonist, Yevhen Stankovytch.


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