Dimitri Mitropoulos

Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet Ballet

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Sony Classical's Great Performances series, which was begun in the second quarter of 2006, has already reissued a number of phenomenal performances with incredibly deep, vibrant, and natural sound. This release of Dimitri Mitropoulos' account of three Russian masterworks with the New York Philharmonic is certainly no exception. The album features his dramatic portrait of Prokofiev's ballet music to Romeo and Juliet, which the composer finished in 1936 for the Kirov Ballet troupe. Although the composer extracted the complete ballets into two (three, if you include his Opus 101) separate suites, Mitropoulos, like many conductors, has concocted his own "suite" from mixing and matching the two. The result is a gripping rendition of Shakespeare's classic tragedy. This recording vividly captures the "Mitropoulos sound": energized, incisive, and always colorful. But Mitropoulos excelled with both excitement and solemnity, and the tragic parting of Romeo and Juliet is a super example of his gift for somber atmosphere. Prokofiev's suite from the film score Lieutenant Kije, completed just two years before Romeo and Juliet, tells the complete life story of a solider "invented" by bureaucracy (a satire of Emperor Paul I). As a work that depends on extreme virtuosity from the orchestra, Mitropoulos and the principal players of the New York Philharmonic provide a compelling rendition, especially the trumpet solo from the opening and double bass solo from the Romance. Mussorgsky's dark and stormy Night on Bald Mountain completes the album, and is a perfect match for Mitropoulos' unrestrained fervor. Considering these recordings date from 1956 and 1957, Sony Classical has worked some real miracles with the superbly clear sound, especially with Kije, which was remastered from a mono master tape. Highly recommended.

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