Saturday, May 28, 2011

BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Mark Elder - Prokofiev: Cantata For The 20th Anniversary Of The October Revolution, Op. 74 (1996)

From Wikipedia: Obscure as this cantata may be, it should never be dismissed as insignificant. Disturbing, it certainly is: its text alone, drawn from the writings of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, is, to say the least, controversial. In ten contrasting movements it relates the story of the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of the Soviet Union, from the battle for the Winter Palace in 1917, through the suffering of 1918 and Lenin's funeral in 1924, to the building of factories and collective farms in the early Thirties and the final consolidation of Stalin's control over the country with his new constitution of 1936. Begun by Prokofiev in 1936 on commission from the All-Union Radio Committee, it was finished the following summer. Prokofiev expected it to be part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. Due to the political climate towards artists in 1937, Prokofiev decided to assure his safety by withholding the work. The Cantata had to wait until May 1966 for its premier, 13 years after Prokofiev's death. Ironically, Stalin was also dead and also disgraced by this time. The cantata is a type of patriotic cantata. The music is frequently unconventional and certainly way out of line with the Communist Party's populist remit of Socialist Realism. Its extravagant sound palette combines a full orchestra with typically Russian choral writing, folk instruments and the sounds of marching, gunfire and sirens, all to spectacular pictorial effect. Leaving political acceptability aside, the Cantata is a thrilling piece of music, written when Prokofiev was at the height of his powers.

Recorded at Royal Festival Hall, London, England, Feb. 17, 1996.
Mark Elder - Conductor, Oleg Miroshnikov - Speaker, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Stephen Jackson - Choir Master, Philip Burwell -Engineer.


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