SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
PROKOFIEV: Romeo & Juliet (complete ballet) – London Symphony Orchestra/ Valery Gergiev – LSO Live
Published on December 27, 2009
PROKOFIEV: Romeo & Juliet (complete ballet) – London Symphony Orchestra/ Valery Gergiev – LSO Live multichannel SACD LSO0682, 138:58 (2 discs) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***** [Release date: 1/12/10]:
It’s with great pleasure I report on the first SACD of the complete Romeo & Juliet ballet music, my personal favorite work of the composer’s along with his Fifth Symphony. This is the first LSO Live release for 2010, which year celebrates the label’s tenth anniversary. There is a somewhat competing SACD on BIS 1301 of the Three Suites from Romeo & Juliet, played in the same order as the selections heard in the complete score. Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic do a fine job on this one, but it is a more laid back and refined interpretation than the barnstorming Gergiev version at hand. On standard CD there is the “Scenes from the Ballet” by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony on RCA Red Seal 09026-68288-2. It was the debut recording of the short-lived collaboration of the orchestra with RCA Victor, and suffers from the odd sonics all of those CDs had – before BMG dropped the Symphony and they launched their much superior self-published SACD series. There is also a Mercury Living Presence CD of the Suites 1 & 2 from Romeo & Juliet, with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting the Minneapolis Symphony (432 044-2), but although one of the label’s 35mm film recordings, the sound is rather distant and the orchestra sounds reduced next to the others above. Of course, vinyl-oriented audiophiles still get goosebumps over the Sheffield direct disc of Romeo & Juliet excerpts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, even though the movie-studio acoustics sound like it was recorded in a big box of Kleenex.
Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet warrants a hi-res recording of the complete score since it is regarded by many as the greatest ballet score ever composed. It is also one of the most successful realizations in all of music of a Shakespearian drama. The score is almost neo-realist in its musical depiction of the dramatic elements of the story; it’s not just a series of set-piece dances for some sort of festival or celebration as in so many ballet scenarios. It is akin to a Wagnerian opera without words. Some of the composer’s most glorious music is included in this sparkling, dynamic ballet score, and Gergiev is tireless champion of Prokofiev’s music. While preparing for its premiere in 1936 some Soviet ballet experts felt it was undanceable. Prokofiev put together two concert suites shortly after the premiere, but Gergiev has courageously taken the complete score out of the ballet theater and into the concert hall, to make the music-drama stand on its own orchestrally as with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty. The live recording is sensational in its realism, and the note booklet is highly detailed in several languages.
- John Sunier