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Posted February 23, 2012
Non-musicans often think of arrangements as being analogous to translations, and we're inclined to worry about what's "lost" in the process. But the adaptive re-use of music might be done for all sorts of practical or artistic reasons, and there is often something gained as well. In the case of Vadim Borisovsky's arrangements for viola & piano of Prokofiev's amazing Romeo & Juliet ballet, I think a better analogue is "distillation". If these clever arrangements don't exactly bring out the "essence" of the score, which is one of the greatest and most colourful orchestral works of the 20th century, they distill some of the many moods of Shakespeare's original work, as they were so imaginatively re-imagined by Prokofiev.
This new Naxos disc of Borisovsky's arrangements includes three additional movements, transcribed by David Grunes and Matthew Jones, and all the pieces have been reordered to follow the original ballet score. The choice of viola and piano works well for the more neo-classical scenes, which can sound like movements from an angular trio-sonata. The more romantic scenes take advantage of the full expressive range of the viola (and in a couple of cases, two violas) and the complete dramatic arsenal of the pianist. The Dance of the Knights is amazing: the viola provides so many different sounds through different bowing techniques and the full range of the viola, ncluding harmonics. This is a rich re-orchestration!
Violists Matthew Jones and Rivka Golani and pianist Michael Hampton provide passion and expertise in equal parts. They really convinced me of the value of this music!
Posted September 29, 2011
I am an ardent fan of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. I've loved it since I first heard it, many years ago. So seeing this arrangement, distilling it to a trio and giving it a chamber music treatment.I was curious. I love the sound of chamber music, and am a big believer in its beautiful timbre. However, in this case, I just wasn't able to draw the same magic from Prokofiev's tragic score. It really does rely on bigger sounds to convey different levels of drama and sorrow. Jones, Golani, and Hampton all do a wonderful job, and I don't fault them whatsoever. However, for me personally, I felt like a good deal was missing without having a full orchestra play the score. Then again, it could be just a quirk of mine.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 27, 2011
Any addition to the paltry viola section of my record collection is a welcome one and this new release of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet in an arrangement for viola and piano by the renowned Soviet violist, pedagogue, and founder of the Beethoven Quartet, Vadim Borisovsky, is particularly welcome. Borisovsky's arrangement is animated by Jones and Hampton's subtle performance (with Rivka Golani ably joining in on two tracks), which is displayed especially in the pizzicato and harmonic passages on "The Street Awakens," "Mercutio," and "Morning Serenade." The angular jauntiness of "The Dance of the Knights" is also striking. Jones and Hampton offer a skilled performance of this arrangement, sure to please violists and those looking for a new take on this warhorse.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2011
Prokofiev's now-famous ballet "Romeo and Juliet" had a difficult start in life. The Kirov Theatre commissioned Prokofiev to compose a ballet, but political changes resulted in cancellation of the planned production of "Romeo and Juliet." Prokofiev signed a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet and completed the score in mid-1935. The music was judged impossible to dance to, and a happy ending was suggested on the argument that the living can dance, the dead cannot. Still the ballet remained unstaged until a 1938 performance in Brno; meanwhile, Prokofiev's success with two Symphonic Suites and a piano version of the ballet attracted the attention of both the Bolshoi and the Kirov companies, who finally staged the ballet in 1940 and 1946, respectively.
With Prokofiev's approval, the gifted Moscow-born violist Vadim Borisovsky transcribed an eight-movement suite of this ballet for viola and piano. Later, he transcribed a further five excerpts, two of which required a second viola. Considering the complexity and orchestral lushness of Prokofiev's original score, Borisovsky created a remarkable transcription. Prokofiev's use of leitmotifs in the original ballet is cleverly portrayed by imaginative use of the viola's full register, harmonics, and bowing techniques.
The performances are top-notch and the recorded sound is splendid. Those who like the idea of excerpts from this ballet performed as intimate chamber-music will surely enjoy this CD.