The Russian-British pianist Alexander Melnikov has recorded Shostakovich and a variety of Romantic chamber music with great success. But nothing quite prepares the listener for the controlled power in these performances of three Prokofiev piano sonatas. The Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82, and Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84, are among the most modernist works Prokofiev ever wrote. They appeared during World War II and are often thought, with some justification, to reflect that environment.
The famous Russian director Sergei Eisenstein held Prokofiev the film composer in the highest regard, and to couple their two celebrated collaborations, Ivan the Terrible and Alexander Nevsky, in a two-disc set is therefore entirely appropriate. Ivan the Terrible, however, is a problematic score. Assembled by Abram Stassevich after the composer’s death, the oratorio lacks the large-scale balances and tensions of Prokofiev’s own Nevsky cantata, relying on narration to hold the structure together. This substantial English version by Michael Lankester, intended to ‘compensate for the lack of visual image’, is well projected by Christopher Plummer. Rostropovich directs a vivid performance of Alexander Nevsky, and only the rich tone of Russian voices is lacking. The LSO plays brilliantly, while the recording does full justice to one of Prokofiev’s finest scores.
Following the successful publication on Cappriccio of all Shostakovich’s symphonies on CD, Dmitrij Kitajenko once again collaborates with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln to perform the complete recording of all of Sergey Prokofiev’s seven symphonies. Together they embark on a very challenging project, both in terms of time and level of technical difficulty, a project that demanded huge efforts and potential from the orchestra conductor alike. Prokofiev’s symphonies could not be more varied. They were written at different times throughout the composer’s life and each one individually reflects the pressure of political dictatorship and forced submission to merciless censorship that was prevalent throughout the Soviet-era. On the other hand, the huge energy, the hopes and desires, emotional and social messages conveyed between the lines could not be vanquished even by dictators and censors.
This is a fine recording of two vastly under-appreciated works by young cello virtuoso Han-Na Chang. She has the extraordinary technique to play the excruciatingly difficult cadenza in the central movement of the Sinfonia Concertante and the sustained tone to play the long, lyrical melodies in the opening movement of the cello sonata. Antonio Pappano is a faithful accompanist whether he's directing the London Symphony Orchestra in the Sinfonia Concertante or playing the piano in the cello sonata.