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Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 ‘Classical’ – Work No. 86 in our collection

Sergei Prokofiev (23.04.1891 – 05.03.1953) was a Russian Soviet composer, pianist and conductor. He created a number of masterpieces in various genres and is one of the great composers of the twentieth century. Works to highlight include his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 83, his two violin concertos, two violin sonatas, symphonies 1 and 5 and his ballet Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64.

Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 25 ‘Classical’ has a typical classical four-movement structure and was deliberately out of kilter with the spirit of the age. It utilises an orchestra similar to that for which Haydn and Mozart composed. The popular Gavotta, later used in Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, is characteristic of this composer’s quirkiness in handling tunes. This justifiably popular work ends with a most joyful and carefree finale. A wonderful piece whose strange charm perhaps owes as much to Rimsky-Korsakov as it does to Haydn and Mozart.

There is a wonderful, reasonably priced performance of this workplayed by the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of the late Herbert von Karajan.

If you fancy exploring all seven of Prokofiev’s symphonies, including two versions of the fourth, then we can wholeheartedly recommend Valery Gergiev’s set performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. The performances of symphonies 2, 6 & 7 being especially fine.

View the other works in our collection.

A rousing performance of Elgar’s Caractacus

Elgar: Caractacus

Elizabeth Llewellyn (Eigen), Elgan Llŷr Thomas (Orbin), Roland Wood (Caractacus), Christopher Purves (Arch-Druid, A Bard) & Alastair Miles (Claudius), Huddersfield Choral Society, Orchestra of Opera North, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)

This work may not represent Elgar at his finest but Martyn Brabbins and the team at Hyperion are to be congratulated on bringing this to market. My only previous encounter with this work being a CD from Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra.

As expected the Huddersfield Choral Society are very much at home in this music and give a committed performance. The soloists are well suited to their roles and Roland Wood comes across particularly impressively as Caractacus. Martyn Brabbins leads proceedings with great conviction and the whole thing is hugely enjoyable – even if this is not the greatest of music! Recommended to all lovers of the music of Elgar.

iClassical rating:

Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks – Work No. 85 in our collection

George Frideric Handel (23.02.1685 – 20.04.1759) was a German-British baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. He is best known for his Messiah, with its famous Hallelujah chorus and for his Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV351 and his Water Music Suites Nos. 1-3, HWV348-350. However it is well worth exploring a range of his works.

The Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351 is a suite for wind instruments composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 under contract of George II of Great Britain for the fireworks in London’s Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1748.

The work opens with a French overture and includes a bourrée and two minuets. The work is in five movements:

  • Overture (Adagio – Allegro – Lentement – Allegro)
  • Bourrée
  • La Paix (Largo alla siciliana)
  • La Réjouissance (Allegro)
  • Menuets I and II

There are many fine recordings of this hugely popular work but few can match Trevor Pinnock’s recording with the English Concert recorded in St. John’s Smith Square, London in August 1984.

View the other works in our collection.

Our top recommendations for March 2019

Each month, at iClassical, we pick three albums, either new releases or reissues, that we regard as being worthy of your special attention. We nominate one recent release as our overall CD of the Month. We also highlight a bargain choice, that offers exceptional value for money, and a collectors’ choice for those wishing to branch out a little!

Click on (or tap) the album cover to read our original review.

CD of the Month – The Polish Violin, Jennifer Pike (violin) & Petr Limonov (piano)

Bargain Choice – Respighi: Roman Trilogy, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta

Collectors’ Choice

Discover our previous recommendations here.