PROKOFIEV 'Romantic Suites' - Cinderella; Romeo and Juliet
For this dip into Prokofiev’s two major ballets, Stéphane Denève decides against any of the published suites but makes his own pick’n’mix selection. Each sequence is (mostly) played in chronological order, so the 10 numbers from Romeo and Juliet culminate in Juliet’s death, although Cinders is left high and dry as the midnight chimes signal pumpkin time to close the disc.
The Brussels Philharmonic is a fine orchestra. Even so, it’s quite a coup for this recording to appear on DG when the Universal label boasts complete Prokofiev ballet scores from the likes of the Mariinsky, Russian National, Cleveland and Boston Symphony orchestras. The Brussels strings scurry along silkily in ‘Juliet as a Young Girl’ and there’s impish precision to ‘Masks’, but there are times I’d have liked greater emotional intensity in other numbers. The strings never approach the hysterical fever pitch of the best Russian orchestras and the woodwinds are solidly secure rather than sardonic.
I think the selection from Cinderella comes off marginally better, where Denève enjoys the jaunty fun of numbers such as the ‘Shawl Dance’. Cinderella’s arrival at the ball tingles with tender anxiety and the ‘Amoroso’ finale to the ballet as she walks off with her prince is gorgeously played (though it is tucked earlier into Denève’s selection).
This makes an attractive introduction to these two ballets but, for the price of a single full-price disc, you could snap up the scores in their full glory in any number of classic interpretations, Gergiev for Romeo and Juliet (LSO Live, 3/10), Pletnev for Cinderella (DG, 6/95) being my top recommendations.