Audio Video Club of Atlanta
, August 2012
In these 1986 recordings of Sergey Prokofiev’s Suites 1 and 2 from his ballet Romeo and Juliet, all the omens were right: first, an orchestra in fine mettle with solid performances from every section, then a conductor whose instincts for bringing out all the fine points in a score in a totally un-fussy way that did not ignore the bold sweep of the whole picture, and finally, a recoding team to help realize the totality through sound that is beautifully focused and detailed without being obtrusive.
From the resounding opening foot-falls of “Folk Dance” in Suite 1, we know we are in the heady world of the modern ballet. “The Death of Tybalt” builds in excitement as Romeo furiously pursues the killer of his friend Mercutio through the streets of Verona, and when he gives Tybalt the fatal thrust, the agony of violent death is conveyed through viscerally jagged chords. The chords are doom-laden in “Montagues and Capulets,” expressing the over-weaning pride of the rival families and its potential for tragedy.
But Prokofiev can also be gentle, as in his deft portrait of “Juliet the Young Girl,” in the Balcony Scene, echoes of which resonate through Suite 2, and in the tender if heart-rending farewell scene, “Romeo with Juliet before Parting.” Tenderness and tragedy come together in the final scene, “Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet,” in a soft reprise of the music of “The Girl Juliet” before the final awareness of tragic death sets in. It is followed by a slow diminuendo, concluding on C major, the most consonant of chords, symbolizing the final peace of the grave. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta