Gianandrea Noseda Recorded January 2003 in Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester
CD No: CHANDOS 10058(2) (2 CDs) Duration: Reviewed: June 2003
The Stone Flower Chandos
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Its a shame that The Tale of the Stone Flower remains relatively unknown in its complete form. Its a wholly enjoyable work, maybe too long at 150 minutes, yet theres enough variety and enjoyment to sustain its length.
The story is based on Russian legend, which Prokofiev complements with folk-related, festive and lyrical music that is charming, colourful, vibrant and descriptive. The sequence of dances in Act 3 Ural, Russian and Gypsy might be a good place to sample. Its an epic score (with a suitably expansive epilogue) a twentieth-century equivalent, maybe, to Tchaikovskys The Sleeping Beauty. If the music itself is not quite of that stature, Prokofievs melodic and theatrical gifts win through, and one senses through the composers lavish craft that he had particular affection for the scenario. A shame, then, that he didnt live to see the ballet produced.
If The Stone Flower lacks the drama of Romeo and Juliet or the piquant charm of Cinderella, and maybe Prokofievs self-borrowing from earlier works brings a distracting quality, there is much pleasure to be found in Prokofievs melodic insouciance, rhythmic guile and fastidious orchestration.
The performance is superb. Gianandrea Noseda brings a gently flowing manner to intimate moments and sharply etches the more demonstrative pages; theres no lack of dramatic resonance when required. The BBC Philharmonic plays quite superbly; more importantly, the musicians seem very sympathetic to a score that I imagine few will have come across before. While I cant make out what the trilling sound between 111-114 on track 3 of the first CD is, I can report that the ambience and clarity of Studio 7 comes into its own with a score like this.