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Cat. No. CHAN 9855(4) Price: £20 No. of discs: 4
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CHAN 9855 - Prokofiev: War And Peace
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Available From: 15 June 2000
In April 1941 Prokofiev had set down a plan to compose eleven scenes from ‘War and Peace’. With the outbreak of war and his evacuation to Nalchik in the Caucasus, the composer set aside the half-completed ballet ‘Cinderella’ and his other operatic projects to concentrate on Tolstoy’s great epic, which kept him preoccupied, in one way or another, for the next twelve years.

The very scale of Tolstoy’s vast epic would have daunted a lesser composer. Prokovfiev’s solution to the problem of scale was to be selective, and he was particularly concerned with its dramatic integrity. His recent experiences as a composer of film scores had shown him how to bring into focus specific moments in the action and throw them into vivid relief. In the same way the characters in ‘War and Peace’ appear before us in a succession of loosely connected episodes that emerge as if from a vast and brightly coloured canvas.

The libretto for this new opera was written by Prokofiev himself and Mira Mendelson, who later became his second wife. In the spring of 1942 Prokofiev sent the vocal score to the Artistic Committee, but the committee found fault with his treatment of historic scenes and demanded changes that would sharpen the musical portrayal of Kutuzov, the commander who saves Russia from invasion by Napoleon. Many subsequent changes took place in an attempt to get the complete opera performed. Prokofiev continued to revise the opera almost until his death, but never heard the opera performed in its entirety. In the Bolshoi Theatre in December 1959, all thirteen scenes of the opera were given together for the first time, and in November and December 1982, the opera was first heard in Russia in a definitive form without cuts.
Reviews

"Recorded live at the 1999 Spoleto Festival in full and open Chandos sound, Richard Hickox’s formidable version of Prokofiev’s epic opera offers a strong, thrustful performance with a cast more consistent than those on rival sets... Other versions may have starrier individual contributions, but this one has no weak link, and the recording is not just full and brilliant but, beautifully balanced, captures the sweetness of the Spoleto strings very persuasively..."
The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12
 

‘Hickox clearly believes in this piece, and does his utmost to heighten the work’s… lyrical moments… there is a real theatrical buzz to the whole undertaking…’
BBC Music on CHAN 9706(2) (the Consul)

‘…Hickox conducts with conviction… A convincing performance of a compelling opera’.
Classic CD on CHAN 9706(2) (The Consul)

‘Its star is Richard Hickox, who conducts with unflagging energy and lyrical flow, guiding the soloists to pointed characterisation and building up the massed effects of the choral scenes.
Opera News, New York

 

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