Alsop’s Loving Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet

Review by: David Hurwitz

ProkAlsopRJ

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Marin Alsop’s Prokofiev recordings for Naxos have had their ups and downs. This complete Romeo and Juliet ballet is definitely an “up.” It’s not the most exciting version. The fight music in the first act, Tybalt’s death, and the noisier moments generally could be more energetic, the playing more incisive (although the strings are admirably precise); but you do really notice the spirit of the dance behind it all. There’s often a lilt to the characteristic numbers like the Knight’s Dance, or the final Gavotte at the ball, that captures their rhythm without forcing. Juliet’s music, too, has just the right touch of coquetry.

The love scenes are gorgeous: light and elegant, flowing and shapely. Whether in the balcony scene or Rome and Juliet Before Parting, this is wonderful playing and conducting. The entire Fourth Act, two, has great sadness and lyricism. You’re not going to hear the kind of expressionist horror that, say, Karel Ancerl brings to the music, but Alsop’s view is both moving and consistent with what has come before. There’s a lot of repetition in the complete ballet: the conflict scenes, the (maybe too) cute folk dance stuff–even two dances with mandolins. Alsop sustains interest, and that’s an achievement all by itself.

The sonics are good, but not quite ideal. The solo winds are placed a bit too far back in the mix, and the top end could be brighter, but at least the sound never turns harsh. This release doesn’t displace the reference versions listed (Ozawa, Maazel), but it’s an impressive effort all the same.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Ozawa (DG); Maazel (Decca)


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