Thierry Fischer and Utah Symphony’s All-Prokofiev Album, Featuring Concert Works Inspired by the Composer’s Film Scores, to Be Released by Reference Recordings, October 25
Album comprises Lieutenant Kijé suite and Alexander Nevsky cantata
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (September 24, 2019) — One the first of three Utah Symphony recordings to be released this season, Music Director Thierry Fischer and the orchestra perform Prokofiev’s only two-concert works to be based on his music for film—the symphonic suite from Lieutenant Kijé and the Alexander Nevsky cantata. Lieutenant Kijé is a 1934 Soviet satire of Czarist Russia that is best remembered for Prokofiev’s score, while Alexander Nevsky, a 1938 historical drama directed by Sergei Eisenstein, is now considered a classic of Russian cinema. Both are rare examples of films whose music has found a stable place in the concert repertoire. This recording is also the first to document new choral developments under Mr. Fischer, featuring the Utah Symphony Chorus for the first time since it became a professional ensemble and the first to feature the University of Utah choirs since beginning a partnership with the orchestra. Reference Recordings releases the SACD on Friday, October 25. Pre-orders are currently available from amazon.com.
Reflecting on this recording, Mr. Fischer said, “Today, it is so common to hear film music in the concert hall that we almost take it for granted, but all traditions must begin somewhere, and Prokofiev was the first real pioneer in this area. How fortunate we are that such a brilliant composer of symphonies, sonatas, and so forth also showed us the possibilities for film music to be transformed into a powerful live experience inside the concert hall. We at the Utah Symphony are thrilled to document such early works in this tradition!”
The Lieutenant Kijé suite is the first major work for the concert hall based on music from the cinema. The suite depicts episodes in the life of its title character, who is fictional even within the context of the film and its source novella. Based on an anecdote from the time of Emperor Paul I of Russia, the plot satirizes pre-Soviet bureaucracy by showing how a clerical error assigning a promotion to a nonexistent officer named Kijé led to his being continually promoted and eventually summoned to an audience with the Emperor. Upon discovering the mistake and the fact that Kijé does not exist, military bureaucrats cover it up by telling the Emperor that he has died. “What a pity,” the emperor says. “He was a good officer.” Lieutenant Kijé was Prokofiev’s first film score, and he was attracted to the commission not only because of its satirical quality, but also because its setting in 1800 would justify his composing in a more accessible, classically inspired style. The five-movement suite received its 1934 world premiere in Paris under the baton of the composer.
The Alexander Nevsky cantata tells the story of the eponymous historical figure, a medieval Russian prince who has achieved legendary status in Russian culture. Depicting Nevsky’s victory over foreign invaders in the 13th century, the film was the first drama by famed director Sergei Eisenstein to use sound, and he and Prokofiev collaborated closely throughout the creative process. Some scenes were scored after they had already been filmed, while in other cases Eisenstein crafted the scene to fit Prokofiev’s music. The cantata condenses the film score into seven movements for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra. Premiered in Moscow 1939 with Prokofiev conducting, the work is performed on this recording by the Utah Symphony alongside the Utah Symphony Chorus, University of Utah A Cappella and Chamber Choirs, and mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova.
Additional Utah Symphony recordings to be released this season are the final volume of the orchestra’s Saint-Saëns symphony cycle, the first by an American ensemble, which appears in December, and an all-Berlioz album featuring Symphonie fantastique and three rarely heard works, which follows in February. Both are released by Hyperion Records.