Here is a set that Prokofieff aficionados would not likely buy but would heartily recommend! If that sounds like a strange comment about this Naxos release, consider its major purpose: as you can discern from the sizable headnote, it is a 2-disc set of excerpts from past Naxos releases of Prokofieff's major (and minor) works, intended to serve, along with the 100-plus page booklet, as an overview of the composer's music and life. It is more than that, too, as you'll realize reading on.
The lengthy essay on Prokofieff included in the booklet by Gregory Hart is well-written, thoroughly researched and quite enlightening. There is much to learn about Prokofieff here, and that is what makes this set so highly recommendable. For students examining the music and life of Prokofieff it would be indispensable, or for someone wanting an intelligent and more than cursory introduction to Prokofieff's works, it will prove both informative and entertaining and in the long run serve as a sampler to Prokofieff's music, guiding the buyer in the further purchase of his works. What may be of great value, at least to the novice, are the references within the essay to the music, wherein track numbers to the CDs are provided for easy access. Every decent library should have this and all other Naxos releases in their composers' series.
I should mention that I already have every complete performance from which these excerpts are drawn and can say that for those interested, obtaining the complete performance of all these works would, in almost every case, be worthwhile, owing to the generally high level of performance. With an exception or two, the sound is also quite good. The excerpts presented here are always played whole: whole movements, whole numbers, just not the whole work. Some might consider this set the perfect companion on short drives in the car, the times when you can't listen to whole symphonies or concertos, but to a five- or ten-minute excerpt. Heartily recommended!
Copyright © 2008, Robert Cummings