Prokofiev's last ballet, The Stone Flower, is among the composer's final works. It's an engaging piece, hardly more challenging in expressive language than a Tchaikovsky ballet. It is very tuneful, with twenty or more attractive melodies, many recycled from earlier Prokofiev works: the festive No. 7, Round Dance, is borrowed from the two-part film score for Ivan the Terrible; Nos. 14, Katerina and Danilo, and 19, Waltz of the Diamonds, are sourced in Music for Children, for piano, Op. 65, (Nos. 11 and 6, respectively). Prokofiev's orchestration is splashy and colorful, a sense of the exotic often permeating the music: there are Russian and Gypsy dance numbers, and much else with a folkish, often Eastern-flavored character that befits the fairy tale-like plot of the ballet.
Gianandrea Noseda, principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and a frequent figure at the Met and Mariinsky Theater, leads the proceedings with a rich lyrical sense here. His tempos tend to be leisurely, but since this ballet's strong point is melody--from the two seemingly ubiquitous big tunes associated with the Mistress of Copper Mountain (No.1), to the livelier, colorful music in Ural Rhapsody (No. 29), and much else--he captures the heart of the score better than anyone on CD, including the once-available Rozhdestvensky. And Noseda's orchestra responds with enthusiasm and commitment: the brass, percussion and xylophone pour on an extra measure of color in Ural Rhapsody and in that wild trio of numbers in the ballet's Third Act--Russian Dance, Gypsy Dance and Severyan's Dance (Nos. 31-33). The strings soar meltingly in the opening pair of melodies mentioned above and in the closing numbers dealing with the reunion of Danilo and Katerina (Nos. 44-46), where the brass join in elegantly to add to the sense of triumph and romance. Chandos' sound is vivid and powerful.