Proms 2003 – Prokofiev

0 of 5 stars

Piano Concerto No.1 in D flat, Op.10 *
Symphony No.5 in B flat, Op.100

Nikolai Lugansky (piano)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Alexander Lazarev *

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Yan Pascal Tortelier

Recorded in the Royal Albert Hall during Proms 2003 – Concerto on 8 September, Symphony on 9 August

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: August 2004
2564 61551-2
Duration: 59 minutes

This is one of a new series of Proms-related CDs from Warner Classics. Whilst there is a certain logic to the other issues in the first batch which – besides the inevitable Last Night – sensibly opt for some lesser-known music by famous composers (Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible and Stravinsky’s Perséphone, for example) the rationale behind this all-Prokofiev release is more questionable.

Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is mainstream repertoire. Assuming that we buy recordings for repeated listening, it’s difficult to recommend the National Youth Orchestra in this work above numerous existing recommendations. (Although it is certainly a fine souvenir for anyone directly involved with the NYO or with fond memories of the concert.) Obviously it would be nice to give an unreserved welcome to a performance by the National Youth Orchestra. On this occasion, the playing, while good, does not represent to the NYO at its best, and Tortelier’s conducting drags, the first movement in particular sounding tentative in the quieter sections and bloated at its climax. The scherzo taxes even the greatest orchestras; here, taken at a moderate speed, it sounds distinctly rough and ready and its return after the trio seems interminable. Things improve considerably in the last two movements (though not in the finale’s coda).

However, this CD also contains a resoundingly fine and very live performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1. Not always the tidiest of orchestras, the RSNO still pack a powerful punch, especially the lower brass, and with a pianist of Nikolai Lugansky’s virtuoso technique there is here a tremendous surge of adrenaline. The concerto holds one’s attention from first note to last, its quieter episodes explored just as fully as the work’s extrovert display. Outstanding, so much so that one longs to hear Prokofiev’s other four concertos from these forces. Excellent booklet notes.

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