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Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, April 2013

My colleague Oleg Ledeniov speaks glowingly of this disc (review) and it wasn’t long before I discovered why. Quite apart from the quality of the writing and playing—Britons Michael Hampton and Matthew Jones are first-rate artists—the sonics of this release are superb; perspectives are natural, timbres are truthful and the recording offers an ideal blend of warmth and clarity.

Goodness, this is playing of rare distinction, the soloists responding to each other in a most engaging and spontaneous way. Mercutio struts to music of tremendous virility—well caught here—yet it’s all so economically done, whether in the ballet, the suites, the transcriptions or these fine arrangements. That’s also true of the Balcony Scene, whose judicious mix of lyricism and ardour is so intensely moving. Indeed, somewhat misty-eyed I reached for the Repeat button, marvelling anew at the magic of both the music and the music-making.

Subtle arrangements, masterful musicianship and a top-flight recording; a must for all Prokofiev fans. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Oleg Ledeniov
MusicWeb International, March 2012

The performers recreate the emotions of the big score. So, for example, Dance of the Knights is appropriately massive and cruel, even scary, while the inner episodes are, in turn, sweet and tender—and icy and insecure. Mercutio’s jolliness is infectious, yet his tale about Queen Mab is mysterious and spooky. In the Parting scene, the viola of Matthew Jones alternates between the violin’s high clarity and the cello’s opulent depths. The piano sounds heavy-handed at times, but somehow it works well for this music and comes as an improbable advantage.

The sound of both instruments is full and deep, so the texture is never too thin or empty. The distribution of the roles is not always the standard one: viola on top, piano with the accompaniment. No, they often exchange, echo, toss the themes to each other. This creates diversity of the texture.

The recorded sound is rich and clear. Overall, this is a wonderful performance of a wonderful arrangement of wonderful music. If you love Prokofiev’s ballet, then I’m sure you will enjoy this presentation. Due to the skill of the arranger and the performers, it is unexpectedly rich, faithful and touching: more than one could guess from the modest forces. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, October 2011

All the arrangements are splendidly realized, with the exception of Dance with the Mandolins…

Violist Matthew Jones conveys a fine sense for both Prokofiev’s lyrical music and his more acerbic side.

Michael Hampton plays his part well throughout the disc, making you wonder that he may well be good choice for recording some of the Prokofiev concertos or sonatas. Rivka Golani performs well in the two numbers requiring a second viola.

Naxos’ sound is excellent and their notes informative. Now the question is, would such an offbeat disc appeal to a wide audience? To me, I found these transcriptions utterly refreshing, despite my initial skepticism. In many ways these accounts actually rival the originals. Morning Dance, for example, effervesces delightfully here; Masks has an infectious playful quality; and the tragedy in Parting Scene and Death of Juliet comes through with a powerful sense of loss. In sum, this is a most unusual and worthwhile disc that should appeal to more than just viola mavens.

Stephen Eddins, September 2011

The arrangements are exceptionally well done and for most of this music, the combination of viola and piano sounds like a natural fit, thanks to the versatility of the viola’s tonal variety; it can soar like a violin and project the mellow warmth of a cello. The album is so successful both because of the arrangers’ skill and Jones’ gift in exploiting the instrument’s versatility. Hampton, too, plays with plenty of color and drama, and he and Jones create rounded, musically satisfying highlights of music from the ballet. It’s a set of pieces that makes a delicious addition to the violists’ recital repertoire. Jones’ tone is light but rich; he is especially adept at finding the musical and dramatic core of each movement, from the playfulness of “Masks” to the subdued, lyrical melancholy of “Romeo at Friar Lawrence’s home” to the delicate sweetness of “Morning Serenade” to the searing emotionality of the “Epilogue.” Legendary Israeli/Canadian violist Rivka Golani…joins Jones and Hampton in several movements arranged for two violas and piano. Naxos’ sound is warm, natural, and present. This album should appeal to fans of the viola and of Prokofiev’s ballet.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2011

Prokofiev’s ballet has been arranged for so many combinations, the composer encouraging Vadim Borisovsky to create a work for viola and piano. One of the founder members of the legendary Beethoven String Quartet, and largely responsible for stimulating viola playing in Russia, he does nothing inventive with the music, the viola having the melodic line while the piano fills in an accompaniment. There are many sections that require a brilliant technique in both instruments, but it also draws our attention to the amount of quiet music in the ballet score. When we come to the big dance scenes, when the stage is filled with activity, the two instruments are battling against the inevitable lack of weight. The recording makes two additions to the Borisovsky score with Masks from Act 1 and Death of Tybalt from Act 2, the second item being the work of the performers. Often using double-stopping to thicken the texture, Matthew Jones’s intonation is impeccable, his unspecified instrument singing with considerable beauty of tone. Welsh by birth, he is in great demand as a soloist and in the field of chamber music, having played a key role in the Badke String Quartet when winning the 2007 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. He is joined by that legend of the viola world, Rivka Golani in two of the extracts, not a key role, but it is good to hear her. Throughout Michael Hampton is the fine pianist, underpinning without hogging the limelight, the two instruments immaculately balanced in this Welsh made recording.

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