Outstanding Prokofiev from London Philharmonic Orchestra

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 3 & ‘Chout’

Vadim Repin (violin), Simon Callow (narrator), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Alexander Lazarev (conductor)

This is a superb recording based upon two live concerts at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London dating back to 1997¹. It represents the LPO’s first all-Prokofiev release and it benefits greatly from having the fine Russian conductor, Alexander Lazarev at the helm and, in the case of the concerto, a talented young violinist who has performed the Prokofiev piece frequently.

The four works (it also contains the short, early piece Dreams, Op. 6) encountered on this release are united by Prokofiev’s unequalled ability to tell a story through the medium of music. Disc 1 begins in splendid fashion with Vadim Repin’s account of Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19. This performance starts and gets even better in the thrilling scherzo. Repin’s playing is mesmeric throughout and he exhibits a superb sense of line which enables the ideas flow spontaneously in the finale. The LPO are also at the top of their game and this makes for one of the finest accounts available. Next we have Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 44 which is based on themes from his opera The Fiery Angel which at the time had remained unperformed. This is among the best of Prokofiev’s symphonies and here it gets a performance from Alexander Lazarev and the London Philharmonic Orchestra that truly does justice to it. Once again Lazarev shows the ability to steadily build a work and we are treated to a suitably hair-raising end.

The second disc begins with a version of Chout, Op. 21 (The Tale of the Buffoon) in a narrated version. My familiarity with this work comes from a purely orchestral performance by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Walter Susskind. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this narrated version of the dark and somewhat farcical tale thanks, in no small part, to the quality of the narration by Simon Callow and the fact that the spoken passages do not overly intrude on the musical flow of the piece. If you are unfamiliar with this work then it is worthy of your investigation. The CD comes to a close with Prokofiev’s youthful symphonic poem Dreams, Op. 6.

This recording has been issued as a double CD set (available for £11.50 or less) and as a CD-quality download. It represents outstanding value for money with first rate performances of the two main works on the programme together with the added value of a rarely heard narrated version of  Chout. This a highly recommended all-Prokofiev release which could grace any collection.

iClassical rating: 

¹ Recorded on 28 November 1997 (Violin Concerto No. 1, Chout and Reves) and 30 November 1997 (Symphony No. 3).