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CLASSICAL  May 2008

CLASSICAL May 2008

Subject:

Re: Chicago Symphony

From:

Rick Mabry <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 10 May 2008 23:31:23 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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> Replying to myself: Two more fine Muti/Philadelphia recordings:
> Pictures at an Exhibition, Rite of Spring.

I like Muti/Philadelphia recording of Prokofiev's 5th symphony (Philips
135145), and when Muti's name comes up among certain Prokofiev fans
online, this is often a recording that is mentioned enthusiastically.
There are some who rate Muti's 5th very high among all recordings of
that symphony (of which there are many).

But what I like most about that recording is its CD-mate, the "festive
overture" called "The Meeting of the Volga and the Don" op.  130.  I'd
say the latter is pretty far "off the beaten path" in that there is only
one other recording that I know of, the other being by Ashkenazy with
the St.  Petersburg Philharmonic (on Exton, coupled with, among other
interesting things, "Seven, They Are Seven").  Perhaps I'd be less fond
of Muti's recording of this piece if there were more recordings from
which to choose.  But that will never happen, as nobody is beating a
path to works commissioned by the former Soviet state for the opening
of canals.  Still, I think (now wandering off the beaten path of the
original topic) that this piece absolutely rocks.  It does help to have
an open, sympathetic attitude to it, and to give it several listens.  I
didn't care for it at first, but on several occasions I forgot to "lift
the needle" after the 5th symphony had finished playing.  It got under
my skin and I found myself humming it quite often.  Not that this is a
good sign, as I will hum any damned thing that I hear a few times.  But
this I liked, and still do, very much (as much as any movement of the
5th symphony itself; for me it has become something of a fifth movement
to that symphony!).  Here is a sympathetic "overture" that might compel
one to give it a listen, in a bit of an interview with Rostropovich, who
is speaking of Prokofiev, with whom Rostropovich was living during the
composer's final years:

   '...  I saw how poor he became.  He had no money at all and
   one day he said, "Slava, I have no more money for breakfast."
   I was shocked, so I went to the Union of Composers and spoke
   with Mr.  Khrennikov, the President.  I told him, "Prokofiev
   has no money for food.  Maybe the Union can give him a
   little bit of money?  If not I will go to the Conservatorium
   and see if I can ask some students for some rubles."
   Khrennikov gave to me a sum of $50, in rubles of course,
   and I gave this to Prokofiev.

   'After that, a composer who had a powerful position at the
   Soviet radio network, the great conductor Samuel Samosud,
   and I had a secret meeting to discuss how we could try and
   help Prokofiev.  The composer had a stroke of genius: "If
   Prokofiev were to compose something connected with Stalin
   I may be able to arrange a commission." So we all conceived
   an idea that Prokofiev could compose an overture called
   "The Meeting of the Volga and the Don." Stalin had an idea
   to build a canal between the two big rivers, the Volga and
   the Don, and we thought that this could make an opportunity
   for Prokofiev to earn something at last by writing a
   celebratory work. So I took the idea to Prokofiev, and I
   was so happy to tell him.  Prokofiev said, "such a stupid
   idea!" You know, I was very near to crying.  "Why are you
   so distressed?" Prokofiev asked me.  I said, "There are
   thousands of bulldozers there and they are all plowing up
   the ground!" "Oh - well, maybe that's not such a bad idea
   after all," he said, and he composed this overture!  So he
   had his first money for food.'

   http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=3D16209

Rick Mabry
Shreveport, LA

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