Prokofiev Violin Concerto - Atlanta Audio Society

On an opulently beautiful SACD from Linn Records, violinist/conductor Joseph Swenson leads the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a program that makes us realize the deepest qualities we love in the music of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev: the brightness, the lyricism, the endless variety and the real heart and soul of his music. First, we have the "Classical" Symphony in D Major, and it is no small praise to say that Swenson and the SCO bring out this thrice-familiar piece looking and sounding fresh as paint. The forte that opens the Allegro movement is simply stunning, the Larghetto sweet and piquant, the Gavotte full of engaging surprises, and the Finale as infused with joie de vivre as we could possibly ask. Fourteen minutes of pure musical delight fly by all too quickly.Swenson really loves and understands Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, which occurs next on the program. The work contains some of the composer's most personal and expressive, as well as most harmonically daring, music. Swenson really relishes the long arching melodies in the slow movement, played over a simple accompaniment by pizzicato strings and staccato clarinet. Written at the same time as the ballet Romeo and Juliet, it has inescapable parallels with the latter work, particularly in its Balcony Scene and the tableau "Juliet the Young Girl." Here is some of the most achingly beautiful music ever penned for violin and orchestra, and Swenson and his cohorts have the full measure of it. Even the sardonic bass drum, heard in the opening and the finale, cannot dispel its enchanting memory.The program concludes with Swenson's own arrangement for violin and orchestra of Prokofiev's Five Melodies. These colorful, hypersensitive pieces make for an outstanding encore. Particularly notable is the second, whose poignant lyricism and scintillatingly rhythmic central section will remind many of the opening movement of the composer's First Violin Concerto. But there are no bad cherries in this bough, only pleasant surprises!

Atlanta Audio Society
04 July 2005