Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op 64

Reviewed on Mon 05 Dec, 2016

This is a fabulous performance, superbly played, very well recorded, and proof beyond doubt that Vasily Petrenko is among the finest conductors on the current circuit.

The finest Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet we’ve had since Gennadi Rozhdestvensky’s Bolshoi recording from the 1950s (Melodiya), and I’m not forgetting either Maazel (Decca) or Gergiev’s two recordings (LSO Live, Philips). But while Rozhdestvensky (especially) brought the work’s theatrical aspect to the fore, Vasily Petrenko presents us with a sequence of 44 vividly illuminated dramatic cameos that ‘add up’, the ‘Dance of the Knights’ as macho as any on disc (humbling brass and percussion), while the relaxed jauntiness of the preceding ‘Masks’ allows us access to Petrenko’s way of moulding phrases and bringing out inner detail. Throughout the performance rhythms are tautly sprung: try the ‘Meeting of Tybalt and Mercutio’ (disc 2, track 3), or the finale of that same Act 2 (tracks 6 and 7), some of the most staggering playing on the set. And as for emotional intensity, you could hardly wish for more, certainly not in the Third Act, whether when Romeo bids Juliet farewell or the lacerating high strings at the start of 'Juliet’s Funeral'. This is a fabulous performance, superbly played, very well recorded, and proof beyond doubt that Vasily Petrenko is among the finest conductors on the current circuit. Next up, could we please have a complete Cinderella, or maybe even a cycle of Prokofiev symphonies? We can but hope.
–Rob Cowan