Prokofiev - The Decca Masters

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Prokofiev - The Decca Masters
Frank Phillips (narrator) / London Philharmonic Orchestra, Nikolai Malko, Sir Adrian Boult / Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eric Tuxen / etc

[ Decca Australian Eloquence / 2 CD ]

Release Date: Friday 6 March 2020

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A kaleidoscopic collection of orchestral Prokofiev in the 1950s, as recorded by Decca engineers in London, Paris and Copenhagen, featuring both rarities and classics.

Once upon a time Peter and the Wolf was the best known of them, with six recordings to its credit in the days before LP. On this Kingsway Hall recording from 1949, the BBC announcer Frank Phillips told the story, with the experienced Prokofiev conductor Nikolai Malko making a rare appearance on Decca. Nowadays the Fifth Symphony is far more frequently heard in concert; this taut and thrilling 1952 account is the work of the Danish conductor Erik Tuxen, a legendary interpreter of Sibelius and his fellow countryman Nielsen.

Three years later in June 1955, Sir Adrian Boult made his first stereo recording, of the Love for Three Oranges Suite with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra. This was originally issued in mono with the Lieutenant Kijé Suite played by the LPO because the latter recording was mono only - whereas the present reissue now presents Oranges in its stereo version. Boult's dry wit points up the sardonic qualities of both suites.

Despite its title, Russian Overture from 1936 does not straightforwardly conform to principles of Soviet nationalism in music with its abrupt cuts from comic capers to sweeping Russian melody. Written like so much of Prokofiev's music with tongue in cheek, it makes an apt companion on disc for his final symphony, the Seventh. These were recorded in November 1957 (and originally issued on the RCA 'Living Stereo' label) by the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by Jean Martinon, who had done much to promote the conductor's music outside his Russian homeland. The Seventh is a deceptively simple work, imbued with a melancholy and nostalgia somewhat obscured by the 'fake' ending contrived to the symphony for it to win official approval (and which is played here).

'Extremely well recorded.' The Record Guide, 1955 (Symphony No.5)

'A thoroughly desirable disc.' EMG Monthly Newsletter, May 1956 (Lieutenant Kijé)

'The Danish orchestra are on the top of their form… technically it is faultless … the issue may be counted a great success.' Gramophone, March 1963 (Symphony No.5)

'Among the wittiest, most pointed, and most elegantly recorded performances in the entire Prokofiev discography.' High Fidelity, June 1956 (The Love for Three Oranges)

'It is his composer's ear that makes his performances of Prokofiev so dazzling ... The orchestra possesses an almost chamber-like sound, but this does not prevent Martinon from drawing from it warm, passionate readings; it's a remarkable combination.' Gramophone, December 2003 (Symphony No.7)


CD 1
1 Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67
Frank Phillips, narrator
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolai Malko

2-5 Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Eric Tuxen

CD 2
1-5 Lieutenant Kijé - Symphonic Suite, Op. 60
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris
Sir Adrian Boult

6-11 The Love for Three Oranges - Symphonic Suite, Op. 33bis
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult

12 Russian Overture, Op. 72
13-16 Symphony No. 7, Op. 131
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris
Jean Martinon

Eloquence Classics Russian Classics Taster, 2020