“Echoes From the Dark Years – PROKOFIEV and World War II” – var. performers/ Academic Sym. Orch. of the Rimsky-Korsakov Conserv. – Intergroove

Echoes From the Dark Years – PROKOFIEV and World War II” = The Year 1941, Op. 90 (Symphonic Suite); War and Peace – Two Waltzes, Op. 110, Nos. 1 & 5 (orch. by composer); Ballad of the boy who remained unknown (Cantata Op. 93); March in B flat major for brass ensemble, Op. 99; Ode on the End of the War, Op. 105 / Irina Mataeva, sop.; Vladimir Felenchak, tenor; Student Choir of St. Petersburg’s Rimsky-Korsakov Conserv. / Academic Sym. Orch. of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia/ Alexander Titov – Intergroove Classics IGC007-2, 63:19 [Distr. by Allegro] (4/8/14) ****:

This release from the German label Intergroove Classics bears copyright dates of 2001 and 2012, and is not a new release. It has appeared (and still is available) on the Beaux Authentics label. The sound is characteristically Russian with a wide dynamic range, cavern-like acoustics and over-emphasis in the mid-range. But the sound is more than listenable.

What is important is the music. There are a couple of items which you would be hard put to find otherwise, such as the Ballad of the boy who remained unknown and Ode on the End of the War. The Ballad is not the best Prokofiev offering, but for those who are completists it is important. The composer wrote more rousing and substantial patriotic works in the genre of Stalinist political correctness, such as the cantata For the XXth Anniversary of the October Revolution and Alexander Nevsky.

The Ode is a strangely-orchestrated work. There are no violins, no violas and no cellos, but eight harps and four pianos, plus kettle drums and bells and lots of brass. It is impressive sonically and demonstrates Prokofiev’s skill at orchestration. It is short (11:59) and full of Prokofiev’s dramatic and melodic gifts. The symphonic suite The Year 1941 is in three parts, each about four to five minutes long and stands up as one of the composer’s better orchestral works, even if not well-known.

The waltzes from the opera War and Peace are powerful and in the emotional spirit of the ballets Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. The waltzes also appear as Nos. 1 and 5 in Prokofiev’s six-part Symphonic Suite of Waltzes. As for the March, it is bombastic and mercifully brief.

Conductor Titov and his massed forces successfully present these works by Prokofiev in a fiery and impassioned manner. The insert booklet is in German and English. In all a generally fine release, but with the caveats listed above.  Recommended.

—Zan Furtwangler

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