Latest CD reviews: Prokofiev, Poulenc, Durufle


PROKOFIEV BY ARRANGEMENT: Kalnits & Chaplina ★★★★

Prokofiev always had the knack of writing a catchy tune, even before Stalin's cultural commissars made it compulsory. Here Yuri Kalnits (violin) and Yulia Chaplina (piano) perform arrangements of thirty-seven of his miniature melodies which range from an energetic little tarantella composed when he was ten-years-old to the luscious Diamond Waltz from his ballet The Stone Flower which he was still working on at his death in 1953. At the heart of the disc is Visions Fugitives, a twenty-movement suite from 1915-17. Looking back on it in 1950 Prokofiev said that he wanted to combine the lyric, jocose and motoric elements of his style with some slightly daring harmonies. Originally for piano Viktor Derevianko's 1980 transcription works a treat while Kalnits and Chaplina capture all its diverse elements. Famous fiddlers' transcriptions are here too: Jascha Heifetz's jaunty march from The Love for Three Oranges opera and a lively mock-baroque Gavotte.

Norman Stinchcombe

POULENC: Bebbington / Williams / RPO / Latham-Koenig ★★★★

The second instalment of Mark Bebbington's series of French music is, like the first, devoted to Francis Poulenc and is just as enjoyable. It begins with Aubade from 1929 and this "morning music" was originally a ballet score to be performed at a fancy dress party and epitomises Poulenc's witty devil-may-care persona. It's a piano concerto-cum suite in eight sections beginning with a lively toccata and includes a tongue-in-cheek allegro feroce, which Bebbington delivers deliciously, with excellent support from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Jan Latham-Koenig. A year later Poulenc composed Le Bal Masque, a setting of six surrealist poems by his friend Max Jacob. Bizarre, nonsensical, wackily funny in a Monty Python way and given suitably uninhibited delivery by baritone Roderick Williams. The Flute Sonata, with soloist Emer McDonough, is an oasis of calm and Bebbington is joined by five wind players for the lively light-hearted Sextet of 1931.

Norman Stinchcombe

Thomas Trotter is a fixture of musical life in the Midlands – Birmingham City Organist based at the Town Hall since 1983 and Symphony Hall's Resident Organist on the imposing Klais organ. This disc gathers together all the works for organ by Maurice Duruflé, a brilliant organist and a painstaking and highly self-critical composer, who died in 1986. Trotter plays the Harrison& Harrison organ of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, on which he "learned my craft" as an Organ Scholar in the 1970s. The superbly engineered recording captures the college's spacious acoustic and does full justice to the magnificence of Trotter's playing. Sample tracks 7-9, for example, the Prelude, Adagio and Chorale on Veni Creator Spiritus where Trotter never lets the tension slip in the quiet first twelve minutes, where Duruflé only gives us fragments of the hymn, before unleashing a glorious burst of sound as the famous melody sweeps in. Amazing!

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