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If your paradigm for Soviet music of the 1930s is Shostakovich – and that’s probably a mistake – then one searches Prokofiev’s cantata in vain for any hint of tonal or programmatic ambiguity. And yet there was considerable disagreement over the composer’s use of texts by the Bolshevik founding fathers (setting Lenin to music? unthinkable!) and his adoption of ‘futurist’ sound effects (which were known to be anathema to the late leader). The result was that despite Molotov’s urging that the final score should be leftto the composer’s discretion, the cantata was rejected for public performance. It was recorded last August as part of the Kunstfest Weimar, which seeks to explore east-west materials in a reunited Germany. The huge score is stirring, unashamedly affirmative but so dramatically delivered that it is easy to forget how negative and inhumane was the regime it was affirming. A model live recording from the Weimarhalle, which always has good sound.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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