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CD Review

Serge Prokofieff

  • Violin Concerto #2 in G minor, Op. 63 1,4
  • Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Op. 56 1,2
  • Sonata for Violin & Piano, Op. 80 1,3
1 Janine Jansen, violin
2 Boris Brovtsyn, violin
3 Itamar Golan, piano
4 London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Decca 4783546 73m
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Also available on SHM-CD UCCD-1361:
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Dutch superstar violinist Janine Jansen (b. 1978) clearly shows she is deftly attuned to Prokofiev's unique but decidedly protean style. She easily negotiates every zig and every zag on his chameleonic roads, from their toccata-like energy to their soaring lyrical outpourings; from their sweet-and-sour thematic inventions to their driving, hell-bent rhythms; and from their elegance and wit to their darkness and heartrending tragedy. Jansen imparts a radiance to the first two movements of the Prokofiev Second, contrasting a rugged epic character with a passionate optimistic lyricism in the former panel and conveying a meltingly beautiful yet profound sense in the latter. The finale is thrilling, in many ways matching the blistering drive of Perlman/Barenboim and either of the two Heifetz recordings. I would have no problem naming this Jansen performance as one of the finest Prokofiev Seconds ever put on disc. Part of the credit must go to conductor Vladimir Jurowski who, like his father Michail Jurowski, has been involved in performance of both the well-known and little-known works of Prokofiev. Jurowski shapes the score for clarity of texture while drawing a robust spirited sound from the orchestra: you hear as much meaningful detail in this recording of the Prokofiev Second as from any recording I've ever heard – and I've heard dozens. If this performance were the only one on the disc, I would consider it a worthy purchase. But there's considerably more.

Jansen next turns to the Sonata for Two Violins, a work that seems to have developed a measure of popularity in the last decade or so. Here she is partnered by Russian violinist Boris Brovtsyn. The two turn in a performance that is appropriately intense and probing in the first and third movements, agitated and almost hysterical in the second movement Allegro, and joyously but ruggedly bouncy in the finale. Both Oistrakh and Perlman made fine recordings of this work, but without hesitation I'll take this new account by Jansen and Brovtsyn.

The most profound work on this disc is Prokofiev's F minor Sonata, without doubt one of the bleakest but most haunting creations ever to come from the composer's pen. Again Oistrakh (with Frida Bauer or Lev Oborin or Sviatoslav Richter) made excellent recordings of this work, but the Kremer/Argerich effort has previously been my benchmark choice for years. Now there's this towering monument to one of Prokofiev's greatest works. This performance, with pianist Itamar Golan, is searingly intense and haunting in the first movement (listen to that desperately searching violin in the closing pages!), urgent and slashing in the second, forlorn and nearing despair in the third, and anxiously hopeful in the finale before the utterly heartrending collapse at the close. Again, Jansen imparts that sense of searching in her gentle but subtly dire playing near the end where there is such sweet desperation and such sweet loss. Could I imagine a better performance of this sonata? I don't think so. The sound on the disc is excellent and the notes by Daniel Jaffe informative. Highest recommendations!

Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings