PROKOFIEV: The Tale of the Stone Flower, Op. 118–Excerpts – Suisse Romande Orchestra/ Silvio Varviso – (Avail. in various formats from www.highdeftapetransfers.com) HDTT HDCD 230, 51:00 **** :
Swiss conductor Silvio Varviso (1924-2006) recorded Prokofiev’s last ballet The Stone Flower (1948-1950) for Decca 4-track tape 12-18 May 1965. A veteran theater conductor of both opera and ballet, Varviso chose to divide the score’s originally forty-six episodes into five sections, the Prologue and four Symphonic Fragments that trace out the story line, a fairy tale from the Urals of stonecutter Danilo and his sojourn to the Copper Mountain so that he may reproduce the fabulous stone flower in malachite. Having temporarily forsaken his betrothed Katerina to follow the Mistress of Copper Mountain, Danilo leaves Katerina vulnerable to the unwanted advances of the villain Severyan. Danilo’s loving fidelity, however, wins over the disruptive forces, and Danilo leaves–after having been converted into stone himself by the possessive Mistress–both with the secret of making the stone flower and the undying love of his Katerina. That Prokofiev produced an essentially “conservative” score and story line testifies to the fierce political pressure he faced at the time, a denunciation by the Central Committee of the Communist Party that had declared him, Miaskovsky, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian to be formalists who betrayed the “democratic” spirit of the Soviet peoples.
The dominant motif belongs to the Mistress of Copper Mountain, while various episodes describe Danilo at his work, his search for the stone flower, his dalliance with Katerina, Severyan’s Dance, the quarrel over the malachite vase, the seduction to the Copper Mountain and its various treasures, the “Ural” sequences, the death of Severyan, Katerina’s languishing and then following the Fire Spirits, the joyful reunion of Katerina and Danilo, Danilo’s conversion to stone, the Mistress’ recanting of the spell and restoration of the lovers to each other, and the Epilogue.
Though the melodic tissue proves colorful, it lacks the deep passion that mark Romeo and Juliet and large portions of Cinderella. We can well bask in Prokofiev’s long-established mastery of orchestral instrumentation and his often wistful palette; the so-called Ural Rhapsody enjoys Russian national colors. The love sequence of Fragment 2 proves aurally memorable, especially as the woodwind, low winds, and percussion wend a firm melody that breaks off and dissolves into a series of pas de deux much in the manner of the Classical ballet of Tchaikovsky and Adam. Fragment 3 includes the Russian and Gypsy Dance sequences and Severyan’s Dance, the music of which may remind listeners of Gliere. A look at Prokofiev’s late catalogue of works reveals that in 1951 he arranged The Stone Flower into orchestral suites: Wedding Suite, Op. 126; Gypsy Fantasy, Op. 127; and Ural Rhapsody, Op. 128. HDTT audio restoration and stereo separation are superb.
— Gary Lemco
Some “first time” Dance Music releases by Sevitzky and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra