PROKOFIEV: Eugene Onegin, Op 71
SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 1 in E Flat. Op. 2. Symphony
No 2 in A minor, Op. 55. Phaeton, Op. 39
MALCOLM ARNOLD: Music for the flms The Roots of Heaven and David
PAINE: Symphony No. 2 in A, Op. 34 "In the Spring." Prelude
to Oedipus Tyrannus, Op. 35, Poseidon and Amphitrite, Op. 44 - An
BIZET: Marche funèbre in B flat (1860-61). Overtu re
in A (1855). Patrie Overture, Op. 19. (1873). Esquisse: Les
Quatre coins ( Petite
Suite, Op. 22. (1871) Roma - Symphony (1860-1868, rev. 1871)
One of Prokofiev's lesser-know works is his incidental music for the melodrama Eugene Onegin composed in 1936 for a centenary Pushkin celebration theater presentation that later Stalin banned. Because of this, the music was relatively unheard until it was rediscovered in a Russian archive. Prokofiev was a great admirer of Pushkin and planned two other projects based on the author, incidental music for Romm's film The Queen of Spades, and incidental music for Boris Godunov. Neither of these, unfortunately, came to be. Tchaikovsk's opera is a masterpiece, and the tragic story gave him the opportunity to compose some of his finest music. Prokofiev chose to emphasize other elements of Pushkin's writing, and the music is indeed incidental—however, you will hear traces of Romeo and Juliet, In the Ballroom scene he makes extensive use of the harpsichord. On this recoding we experience a concert adaptation of the melodrama, the first ever given in the Czech language conceived for the 180th Anniversary of the publication of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin and for the 60th Anniversary of Prokofiev's death. This is a live recording of the concert presented December 8, 2013 in the Prague Conservatory Concert Hall, the culmination of the 16th Annual International of Concert Melodrama Prague. There are no sung arias. The narrators and speakers are outstanding and have been recorded with natural perspective. No texts or translations, but we do have a synopsis with 20 tracks each detailing the story's progress; this is available in Czech ad English. Detailed biographies are provided of all of the actors. An intriguing issue indeed, particularly for those who love music of Prokofiev.
It is unfortunate that more of Saint-Saëns music isn't better known. Everyone knows Danse Macabre, the Organ Symphony, excerpts from Samson and Delilah and his piano and violin concertos, but there is so much more! This leading French composer (1835-1921) always had something to say in his music, and was a master of orchestration. He actually wrote five symphonies, but the only one heard in the concert hall (and often!) is No. 3 with organ. His two other numbered symphonies are on this new Naxos CD, the first dating from 1852, the second from 1849-59. Charming symphonies indeed without a trace of drama or tragedy. His symphonic poems are representative of the composer at his most imaginative: The Youth of Hercules, Op. 60, Phaéton, Op. 39, Omphale's Spinning Wheel, Op. 31, and Danse macabre Op. 40.The first time I heard all four was many decades ago via mono Columbia LP with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic—dazzling performances that set a high standard for future recordings, seldom met. The Charles Dutoit came closest, and the recent Järvi/Scottish National Orchestra recording comes close and has terrific SACD (REVIEW). This new recording of Phaëton doesn't reach that level. The Malmo Orchestra plays reasonably well enough but does not have the big enough sound for the music. They also are undernourished in the two symphonies. There is strong competition from the budget-priced EMI set of many years ago that contains all three numbered symphonies as well as two other early symphonies conducted with auhority by Jean Martinon and played by an orchestra with sonorities appropriate for the music. ..
Sir Malcolm Arnold is one of the most neglected modern composers—when have you ever heard a symphony of his programmed by a major orchestra? All nin are masterpieces, and fortunately there are some superb recordings, all reviewed on this site. His music for films is equally intriguing as his inventive ideas pour out, orchestrated with the authority of a master. This Naxos reissue is a recording made in April 2000, previously issued on the Marco Polo abel. We are indebted to John Morgan who resurrected the scores from the archives and made these lively suites, 20 tracks from the score for the 1958 film The Roots of Heaven, and 13 from the 19 1969 film David Copperfield. Excellent performances well recorded, with profuse CD notes. A welcome reentry to the catalog. Recommended!
About a year ago this site mentioned a Naxos issue of orchestral music of American composer John Knowles Paine (REVIEW). Now we have Volume II in this seizes featuring the composer's Symphony No. 2 composed in 1870 subtitled In the Spring. There are four movements to this lengthy (47:59) symphony: the first has the subtitle Departure, the second, a scherzo, is called Night Fantasy, the third is an adagio called Romance of Spring, and the final section represents The Glories of Nature. Also included is the Prelude to his Op. 35 Oedipus Tyrannus, and the "ocean fantasy" Poseidon and Amphitrite, which here receives its world premiere recording. Paine has his followers—Zubin Mehta recorded Symphony No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic. The fact remains that Paine's music, although beautifully orchestrated, is for the most part rather bland and surely not on the cutting edge of new American music. Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra do a fine presentation of this music, Excellent audio.
Naxos has yet another winner with this Bizet CD featuring the unjustly neglected "Roma" Symphony. Georges Bizet didn't seem to be a very good judge of the quality of is music. He dismissed his early Symphony in Cs written when he was only 17 and a student at the Paris Conservato;, he totally ignored it and it was never played during his lifetime. Today it is a concert and recording favorite and for good reason. His Symphony No. 2 is a four-movement work composed over a period of years, premiered January 1863. Each movements represents an Italian city: Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples. The premiere was not successful apparently because of a poor performance.Bizet revised the work several times, but never heard it performed of the revised vers version in his lifetime. Roma is a brilliant, vital, charming work replete with Italian dances, and it is amazing that it isn't played—or recirded—more often. : Tthere are only a few recordings, none by a major orchestra. This vivacious new performance by the superb RTF Orchestra under the dynamic direction of Jean-Luc Tingaud is welcome indeed, and the Naxos audio is state-of-the art. Also included is the familiar Petite Suite, Patrie Overture, and two works that doubtless will be new to most listeners: an Overture in A, his first orchestral composition never performed in his lifetime, and Funeral March which was the prelude to a long-lost opera never completed. All of this music is beautifully played. Don't miss this one!