Prokofiev Violin Concerto - The Dominion Post

Sergei Prokofiev has always been a popular composer. His works can be guaranteed to fill concert halls with their mix of a highly distinctive melodic caste, and a feel for drama that is, at times, positively cinematic. Indeed, his film scores - Lieutenant Kije, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible have been turned into very popular concert scores, and his distinctive orchestrations, with their ever-present low percussion, are symphony orchestra spectaculars. This disc features the ever-popular Classical Symphony and the intensely lyrical Second Violin Concerto composed just before Prokofiev returned to Russia from self-imposed exile in Paris in 1935. The disc is filled out by Joseph Swensen's very effective arrangement of the Five Melodies for violin and piano that Prokofiev composed during an American tour in 1923. Swensen is the principal conductor of the highly accomplished Scottish Chamber Orchestra but as this disc shows in sensational fashion, this Norwegian Japanese musician is also a violinist of the very front rank. His performance of the beautiful Second Violin Concerto is marvellously intense, with the long-spun melody of the slow movement memorable in its ecstatic way. The Five Melodies, with some very effective scoring for strings, are also beautifully played by Swensen and the Classical Symphony is light and buoyant and played with great polish. The disc is a little short on playing time, but so good are the performances and so vivid the recording it is a potent recommendation.

The Dominion Post
04 July 2005