- Le pas d'acier (The Steel Step), ballet, Op. 41
- The Prodigal Son, ballet, Op. 46
Prokofiev's 1927 ballet "Le Pas d'Acier" (The Step of Steel), given here in its rarely encountered complete form, is known for its motoric character and colorful scoring. Its sketchy story concerns the industrialization of the fledgling Soviet Union. Michail Jurowski's reading of the score is fairly straightforward and features excellent sound and fine playing by the WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln. But occasionally the pacing is a bit deliberate and the phrasing bland, as in the opening number "Entrée des personages" and in the closing pair "Les Marteaux" (No. 10) and Finale (No. 11). The mechanistic qualities of the music -- so essential to any good performance of this work -- certainly come through with power in these numbers, and the epic and festive character of "Changement de décors" (No. 7) is brilliantly realized. Overall, it's a strong, if slightly flawed effort. The same might be said of "L'enfant prodigue" (The Prodigal Son), also performed complete here. The work, inspired by the Biblical story, is more simply constructed (the writing is mostly two-part) and more tuneful. Jurowski draws out a generally fine performance, with exceptional orchestral balances. But, again, some of his tempo choices and phrasing can seem a tad lackluster, as in "L'enjóleuse," where the playing is only smooth and lively, not bouncy and spirited. Rozhdestvensky, who was a teacher of Jurowski, recorded both ballets with fine results in the mid-'80s for Melodiya. Järvi (Chandos) and Kuchar (Naxos) followed with strong recordings of "The Prodigal Son." Jurowski's CPO account features better sound than any of these three and a fairly strong reading, too, though Rozhdestvensky is interpretively a rung or two higher in both works.