In the summer of 1917, Chicago businessman Cyrus McCormick, Jr., the farm machine magnate, met ̀the 26-year-old composer Sergei Prokofiev while on a business trip to Russia. Prokofiev was unknown to McCormick, but the composer recognised the distinguished American’s name at once, because the estate his father had managed owned several impressive International Harvester machines. McCormick expressed an interest in the composer’s new music, and he eventually agreed to pay for the printing of his unpublished 'Scythian Suite'. He also encouraged Prokofiev to come to the United States, and asked him to send some of his scores to Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Frederick Stock. Prokofiev made his debut with the Chicago Symphony the following season, playing his First Piano Concerto and conducting the orchestra in his Scythian Suite in December 1918, both U.S. premieres and returned to Chicago four more times.
With the exception of the title cut on the first album, Those Were The Days (which is given a rather stodgy treatment), this CD is vintage Percy Faith. The second LP, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet, came out in 1969, when Faith's new sound of orchestra with female chorus had just hit its stride. The trademark harpsichord is there, too. I had this album on LP when I was eight years old, and am pleased to discover that it is absolutely delightful all these years later. The two tunes from Hair are highlights of the album, brimming with energy and delicacy at the same time. Faith also commemorates the tenth anniversary of his big instrumental hit, Theme from A Summer Place, by writing a new version with female chorus. It doesn't displace memories of the original, but it is a welcome piece on this album. If you like your '60's music in a form that is evergreen, this Percy Faith CD is for you.
Combined, Prokofiev’s three suites from Romeo include about half of the score. Still, most conductors who want to give us a full CD (or even a full LP) of Romeo pick their own extracts from the complete ballet instead of stringing together the suites. That’s probably at least partly because they don’t share Prokofiev’s preferences when it comes to favorite moments—but it’s also because, as written, the suites are organized for musical rather than narrative coherence, and thus provide little sense of the play’s dramatic trajectory. One way around the second of these issues, of course, is to reorder the suites: that’s, for instance, what Mitropoulos does with selections from the more popular First and Second. Here Andrew Litton pushes that idea to its limit, giving us all 20 movements of the three suites “in the order the music appears in the ballet score.”
Considering that Thomas' arrangement contains virtually all the main thematic material from the ballet (minus Prokofiev's many repetitions), for many listeners this hugely enjoyable disc will be the one Romeo & Juliet to have and hold. - Victor Carr Jr, Classicstoday.com
Given its premiere by The Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles, Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet has become a signature work for the Company, enjoying great popularity around the world. From the outset, the production teems with life and colour as the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets go about their daily business in vibrant crowd scenes. But Romeo and Juliet take centre stage for those great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene, the morning after the wedding and the final devastating tomb scene. Although The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet over 400 times, each performance and pairing is subtly different and Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli are utterly captivating in the title roles.
Paavo Järvi’s remarkably fresh-sounding Tchaikovsky Pathétique emphasizes the music’s lyricism and singing line, with flowing tempos and unforced, natural phrasing throughout. Accordingly the strings predominate in this performance, and the Cincinnati players make beautiful sounds, especially in the outer movements. Järvi treats the first movement’s “big tune” as a love song that grows more impassioned with each appearance. On the other hand he leads a quite angry development section, with biting brass ratcheting up the tension. The second movement goes at a lively, dancing pace, while Järvi’s quick-stepping third-movement march generates real excitement in its second-half, with brilliant playing by the Cincinnati brass.