Prokofiev Anthology

An anthology of 36 CDs dedicated to the Warner recordings of Prokofiev’s work (1891-1953): piano, chamber music, concertos, ballets, symphonies, operas… The recordings were made from 1932 to 2015. As the distribution of the tracks could not respect the original couplings, each CD does not contain the image of the original cover (which can be found here). A Warner anthology had already been released in 2003.

Some works are offered in several versions, such as the 3rd piano concerto: Prokofiev, Weissenberg, and Argerich, and there are no less than six versions of Peter and the Wolf, in German, English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Japanese!

This is also the case for the 2 violin concertos, with the version of Oistrakh / Galliera / von Matacic (1954/58) and that of Perlman / Rozhdestvensky (1980). I recently received the version of the young Maria Milstein with the Dutch orchestra PHION conducted by Otto Tausk.

It is difficult to follow the two reference versions mentioned above, and yet the finesse of the soloist’s playing and the clarity of the orchestra give us a very lively reading that does not pale in comparison to the elders: a little more rhythmic evidence in Oistrakh and warmth in Perlman, but it’s not much. A success. (Channel Classics).

Let’s return to the box set: for solo piano works, we find for the sonatas Ovchinnikov (1, 4, 5 & 9), Lugansky (6), Angelich (8), Béroff (3 & 7), and François (a very different version from Béroff’s for the 7th), all excellent versions. Note a superb live Toccata by Cyprien Katsaris.

In the chamber music section, there are many gems: the cello sonatas by Argerich / Rostro, the enchanting flute sonata by Pahud, and among the sonatas, the severe but too little-known Sonata for 2 violins with Repin, or the 2nd string quartet by the Italiano (the 1st has clearly never been recorded on one of the labels gathered at Warner).

Back to the concertos, with those for piano: Gavrilov (1), Rana (2), Prokofiev, Weissenberg, and Argerich for the 3rd, Béroff (4), and Richter (5). As with Rachmaninoff’s 2nd, we are lucky to hear Prokofiev’s 3rd performed by the composer – like Rachma, Proko had fingers – the piano is a little distant in this 1932 recording, but it is a poetic reading, without misplaced showiness. Weissenberg is impressive but very distant, and the Argerich / Dutoit version is a bit tame. Note the beautiful sound of Beatrice Rana in the 2nd. We also find Rostropovich’s Cello concertino and the Cello concerto by Starker.

The symphonies are assigned to Rostropovich, except for the 1st and 7th, which are conducted by Previn. This is perhaps the weak point of the set; for example, Previn’s Classical Symphony, despite a very beautiful London Symphony, is a bit heavy – Warner has in its archives the Markevitch version, however – or even Rostropovich’s 5th sounds bad and will not make one forget Szell, for example. As for the ballets, the same is true; Previn’s Romeo is very pleasant, but we will stick to Maazel (the set also includes Armin Jordan’s 3 suites of Romeo. A rarity, The Steel Step by Markevitch, precisely in 1954, in a slightly acidic sound. In addition to the complete set by Previn, we find the beautiful Cinderella suite conducted by Alain Lombard.

In the various pieces, we find Previn for Alexander Nevsky and Lieutenant Kijé; one regrets that Svetlanov did not record for EMI… We find the very beautiful Ivan the Terrible by Muti, a well-led Scythian Suite by Rattle, the beautiful ballet suites of Romeo conducted by the late Armin Jordan, and the rare trance version of The Love for Three Oranges by Silvestri / Vienna in a very beautiful recording from 1960.

In addition to the two operas, War and Peace by Rostropovich and The Love for Three Oranges by Kent Nagano.

I cannot resist the pleasure of creating a gallery of the different narrators of Peter and the Wolf:

Peter Ustinov, Claude Piéplu, Romy Schneider, Miguel Rosé, Bart Peeters & Kyu Sakamoto.

Finally, in addition to the 3rd piano concerto, there are bonus tracks that allow you to hear Prokofiev on the piano (rolls), a brief interview with him, and you can even hear him sing!

Despite some weak points, this is a collection that every Prokofiev enthusiast must have.

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