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Most people in britain recognise troika and montagues and capulets but most people who hear them don't know their titles or who composed them and have never heard of prokofiev. Almost everyone is britain has heard of popular composers like mozart, tchaikovsky and beethoven but prokofiev is not a household name in britain because prokofiev is not featured on television, on arts programs or played on arts radio stations which is a shame. Prokofiev is a musical genius that has been overlooked for far too long and its about time that prokofiev was mentioned on television, on arts channels and his music played on arts radio stations. I like listening to classical music that i can feel and does not distract me from doing tasks and sends me on a journey of emotions and prokofiev's music certainly fits that bill and people who have listened to prokofiev will 100% agree with me but for those people who have not listened to prokofiev i recomend you buy this CD and i look forward to seeing your review soon. I give best of prokofiev 5 stars and highly recomend it.
This compilation represents good value for money and at just over 77 minutes the playing time is rather longer than the 1 hour suggested by the previous reviewer. Those who are new to Prokofiev will probably only recognise 'The Montagues and the Capulets' from the 'Romeo and Juliet' ballet and 'Troika' from 'Lieutenant Kije', a piece regularly used on television at Christmas time because of its sleigh theme. Some people may be surprised that 'Peter and the Wolf' isn't present even in part. I feel however that this is a work best heard in its entirety and at around 25-30 minutes would take up too much disc space leaving only little room for other music. The other pieces that are present may not be as well known as the forementioned but they're equally enjoyable. It was a few years ago that I first listened to this compilation and some of the pieces that were new to me at that time have become my favourites. Cinderella is a wonderful ballet, it captures the mood of the story perfectly. The beautiful 'Cinderella's Waltz' conjures up an image of Cinderella and the prince completely lost in state of blissful happiness as they dance away the night ever closer to Cinderella's deadline. As the clock strikes twelve o' clock the urgency of Cinderella's plight is again captured brilliantly in 'Midnight' with its tick tock clock theme. Other high points include the first and fourth movements of the delightful first symphony (named 'Classical Symphony' because it's fashioned in the style of music of the eighteenth century), the catchy, hummable second movement of the 'fifth symphony' and the brilliant first movement of 'piano concerto no.3'. It's also welcome that the 'Montagues and the Capulets' is the slightly longer version taken from the complete ballet (usually titled 'Dance of the Knights' in the complete ballet). Unfortunately the 'Overture on Hebrew themes' (another personal favorite) is not present but you can't have everything in a single disc release. Audiophiles shouldn't have too much to complain about. The DDD recordings are typical of this Naxos range. They are good quality with lack of background hiss. If I were being ultra critical I would say that they're slightly echoey and distant compared to the very best recordings but this is nit picking, especially when taking the price of the disc into consideration. The ringing sounds from the percussion in the 'Love for Three Oranges march' and the piccolo in 'Midnight' are nicely audable which is something which can't be said about all the recordings I've heard of these two pieces. Some of the conductors interpretations are a little slower than my favourite conductors but again this is being ultra critical. Certainly none of the playing is dull. All things considered this is a very worthwhile purchase.
If you have steered clear of some of the serious 20th Century composers because of their po-face musical technician reputations then, like me, this disc may come as a pleasant surprise. I have to admit, I only bought this Naxos 'Best Of' after hearing the allegro from his first symphony on the radio and taking a liking to it. There is a good version of it on this record and, that Prokofiev somewhat apologetically called it his "Classical" symphony -perhaps to ward off claims of being 'old fashioned' by the critics - is indicative of much of his work showcased on this record. It is very 'modern' sounding music but retains the 'classical' notion of realizing musical ideas through catchy melodies. By 'modern' I mean that his music is very 'urban' and 'industrial', rather than the 'natural world' and 'pastoral' feel of much classical music before the dawn of the 20th Century. You can imagine a good deal of the music on this disc providing the soundtrack to newsreel footage of teeming city streets, construction projects and speeding conveyor belts of components on a production line. It is busy, clever and tuneful music but a long way from the unabashed emotions and passions of his Russian predecessors - Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, to name three. Mind you, when not composing with one eye on the critics, musicologists and that exclusive part of the audience that was wont to attach the epithet 'vulgar' to anything unseemingly popular, he could turn out something with the unbridled joy of the troika from 'Lieutenant Kije'-given a good performance on this disc by the Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra.
I have to disagree slightly with the previous reviewer in that, for me, the two weak tracks on this disc are the waltzes - 'Cinderella's Waltz' and 'Waltzes,Suite For Orchestra-Since We Met'. Prokofiev's quick, busy and, at times, almost jazzy musical imagination doesn't sit well with the demands of a good waltz for a smooth swinging rhythm and flowing melodies. To my ears his two waltzes on this disc have a somewhat unnatural jerky feel to them. Whatever, I've given the disc five stars because it exceeded all my expectations, there's a lot of good music to enjoy on it, and Prokofiev was obviously a smart guy and would expect nothing short of top marks.