GABRIEL PROKOFIEV (b.1975): Saxophone Concerto, Bass Drum Concerto.
Catalogue Number: 10V058
Description: Two substantial, unusual concerti from an unorthodox composer; Serge Prokofiev's grandson who came to composed concert music via the London dance club and DJ scene. In recent years his 'classical' style has asserted itself in a series of concerti which, while drawing on a range of 'non-classical' influences, are less dependent upon them than his earlier works. A fondness for propulsive ostinati and punchy rhythms are the main legacy of the visceral pulsation of Mr Prokofiev's other career. The idea of the bass drum as solo instrument came from its ubiquitous presence as the basic pulse of the club music with which Mr Prokofiev made his career, and the wide range of timbres and playing techniques available to the instrument. The first movement pits the soloist against the orchestra, the drum summoning artillery, the musket fire of rimshots and saurian snarling from the instrument used as a giant 'lion's roar'. 'In the Steppes' is cinematic mood music, modal and atmospheric. A wide range of playing techniques is used here. The third movement is a kind of scherzo, playfully suggesting the persistent pounding heard in the street outside a nightclub. In the finale the drum is played with hard sticks, recalling the thunderous thrills of Japanese Taiko drumming. The music is a cross between a demented, double-speed performance of a dance from West Side Story and Frank Zappa's G-Spot Tornado. The Saxophone Concerto pays tribute to the instrument's history in various genres. After a mysterious, pregnant introduction, the saxophone introduces itself assertively and confidently. Following a brief confrontation with the orchestra, a perky episode ensues, not so far removed from something the composer’s grandfather would have found perfectly acceptable. The remainder of the movement is an aggressive, galumphing rhythm over which the saxophone indulges in dissolute conduct. The more respectable scherzo-like material closes the movement. The scherzo proper has the soloist weaving jazzy elaborations over a syncopated bass line, briefly interrupted by a florid cadenza. The slow movement is a lyrical lament, a melancholy jazz soliloquy. In the finale the saxophone is caught up in an inexorable mechanistic engine, vainly trying to assert its individuality in the midst of the orchestral machine. The triumphant coda is ambiguous; it’s not clear who won. Branford Marsalis (sax), Joby Burgess (drum), Ural Philharmonic Orchestra; Alexey Bogorad.