Sunday, October 13, 2013

Prokofiev's film music for "Ivan the Terrible" really shows grandeur; also, Brahms Horn Trio

I pulled out an old CD of Prokofiev’s “Oratorio”, “Ivan the Terrible” (71 minutes) by Alipi Naydenov  conducting the “Rousse Philharmonic” with the Danube Sounds Choir from the 1984 International Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. There is a narrator (Boris Morgounov), and the work opens with spoken narration. The mezzo-soprano is Vesella Zorova and Dimiter Stanchev is the bass.

The oratorio is a derivative work (arranged by Abram Stasevitch)  from the music score that Prokofiev composed for the films by Sergei Eisentein.  Only the second of the two films is in imdb, and it was delayed until 1958 for political reasons; the first had come out in 1945.

Even as an arranged film score, the music has the sweep and grandeur of the Prokofiev of the 5th and especially the 6th Symphony.  There is grating dissonance, yet lots of stirring chorus.  The 23rd track contains the same Russian hymn that Tchaikowsky had adopted for his 1812 overture – exactly the tune that the National Symphony starts with at July 4 celebrations. 

Ivan was a controversial 16th century czar.  Still, in times like these, it’s probably interesting to ponder music written about the early days of Communism, like the second and third symphonies of Shostakovich.  Wealthy landowners had their estates expropriated as they were thrown into poverty, unable to stop the march of revolution from an angry outside world, which would then implement its own systems of special privileges.  Wasn’t the Civil War in the US rather like that for the South?\
Today, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA, there was a performance of the last two movements of the Horn Trio in E-flat, Op. 40, by Johannes Brahms, with piano, violin and horn.  Actually, it’s the first movement that has an odd form. The Brahms Trio Prague plays the entire work on YouTube, 2007.  

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