Romeo and Juliet, Op.64 [excerpts]
Lieutenant Kijé, Op.60 Suite
David Clatworthy (baritone)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston 13 February 1967 (Romeo & Juliet) and 22 April 1968
CD No: TESTAMENT SBT 1394
Duration: 72 minutes
Reviewed: October 2005
Erich Leinsdorf was nearing the end of his music directorship of the Boston Symphony when he made these recordings of Prokofievs ballet and film scores. Both are worth hearing.
The conductors 50-minute selection from the complete ballet of Romeo and Juliet (rather than utilising Prokofievs own three suites) is lean- and grainy-sounding and with no lack of ardour or thrills but its not laid-on with the proverbial trowel. Indeed, clarity is one of the main draws, certainly regarding the relief of instrumental lines, and theres also a pin-point sense of rhythm that can be heard as dance-steps. Just occasionally one wishes that Leinsdorf had opened out the rhetoric of the music a little more. Some oddities of dynamics and scoring probably have more to do with Leinsdorf using the full score for his selective process than with any touching up not something that one would readily accuse Leinsdorf of. At times it seems that Leinsdorf made a curious selection of movements, but he notably turns the dramatic screw towards the end and the closing bars touch the heart in no uncertain terms.
The sound is good if a little lightweight, violins being slightly thin and the bass line rather light, and with some stridency in the most searing climaxes. Lieutenant Kijé is tonally fuller, and, if not quite matching George Szells peerless Cleveland version (CBS/Sony), there is much to enjoy in Leinsdorfs pristinely detailed conducting, and especially for David Clatworthys contribution to the Romance the solo normally being an orchestral double bass and Troika. Clatworthys name may not suggest Russian nationality, but his performance does! Curiously, he is not credited anywhere in Testaments presentation.
Theres a quality here that is not to be gainsaid, both in terms of a Great American Orchestra and with regard to Leinsdorfs scrupulous, unaffected but penetrating musicianship.