PROKOFIEV: Piano Transcriptions from Cinderella: 3 Pieces, Op. 95; 10 Pieces, Op. 97; 6 Pieces, Op. 102; Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 “Classical” – Temirzhan Yerzhanov, piano – Con Brio Recordings CBR 28454, 64:53 [www.conbriorecordings.com] ****:
Russian virtuoso Termirzhan Yerzhanov came to prominence in 1993 by winning the First Prize and Gold Medal at the Robert Schumann Piano Competition in Zwickau, Germany. In 2003 Yerzhanov performed in his home city a recital called “Prokofiev Almaty 1942-1943,” celebrating the composer’s residence during WW II, when he produced music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film Ivan the Terrible, the Flute Sonata in D, the opera War and Peace, and the ballet music for Cinderella.
Prokofiev had already transcribed ten selections from his ballet Romeo and Juliet for keyboard, so the process of making large tracts of Cinderella accessible to one gifted pianist posed no great challenge. A natural colorist, Prokofiev sets many of his Cinderella themes in various, multi-chromatic registers, as for example the plucky Gavotte from the Op. 95 set. The Waltz bears more than one passing hint at Romeo and Juliet, for its melancholy, falling figures and pearly harmonization. The ten pieces of Op. 97 enjoy faster, feisty characterizations, beginning with the toccata “Spring Fairy” and proceeding through a series of ‘the months,’ in the manner of Tchaikovsky’s Op. 37a. We hear the Summer Fairy, Autumn Fairy, and Winter Fairy in succession, of which that from Autumn calls for percussive and ringing non-legato strokes from Yerzhanov. The dreamy, lied-like Winter Fairy has provided a violin encore for several eminent Russians. Grasshopper and Dragonflies, a brief etude in staccati and syncopes, reminds one of blithe Liszt, as does the Bouree. Orientalia pays quick debts to Balakirev and Cui. The next four sections–Passepied, Capriccio, Bouree, Adagio–comprise a baroque suite, perhaps a nod to Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. The use of metric asymmetry and jagged accents point to the Eighth and Ninth Piano Sonatas. The Adagio sings as one of Prokofiev’s night pieces, a berceuse that could easily have provided a poignant sonata-movement.
The six pieces of Op. 102 return to the formal plot-line of the ballet, opening with Cinderella’s dance with the Prince. Eerily modal and delicately poised, the whirling figures manage to convey the ominous sense of the impending, midnight hour. A piquant variation from Cinderella leads to a passionate, strident Quarrel, several of whose progressions sound like Rachmaninov. Cinderella’s last waltz marks her departure from the Ball, the gestures in the final page quite sweeping. Pas-de-chale presents the kind of lyric, brittle texture over ostinati we know from Romeo and Juliet. The last movement, appropriately marked Amoroso, weaves another dreamy nocturne in the manner of a Liszt water-piece.
The disc, recorded 20-21 May 2005, concludes with the world premier of the Classical Symphony in piano transcription, whose clear, staccati prove estimably natural in the keyboard version, with little sacrifice by way of Haydnesque colors. Yerzhanov keeps the independent lines moving in busy, fluent, cascading motion, the “symphonic” patina never in doubt. A suave Larghetto, in music-box progressions and light trills, follows in distilled, ethereal textures, exquisitely poised. The Gavotte, of course, harkens us to Romeo and Juliet once more; here, rather virile and assertive. The Finale: Molto vivace in the keyboard realization becomes quite a merry dance, with distinct periods marked in varying touches, runs, and applications of dynamic stresses. A limpid, brilliant toccata in repeated notes, it rivals Liszt’s La Campanella for fleet, energetic éclat.