Sergei Prokofiev's 1935 ballet score for Romeo and Juliet is considered one of the most lyrically inspired works of his career. Commissioned by the Kirov Ballet, it was first performed in Leningrad in 1940 before being transported west, most famously to London's Royal Opera House in 1965, when Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev played William Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers to international acclaim. It is now considered among the best classical works of the last century. Valery Gergiev, the London Symphony Orchestra's principal conductor, breathes new life into an already energetic work with this recording taken from two concerts at London's Barbican Hall in 2008. It is a huge, multifaceted piece, full of the naivety of young love and the tragedy of impending death, relayed in technicolour by the LSO's electric performance; the orchestra swings from the sunny, delicate skip of the first act to the booming drama of the last with spirited finesse. There are times when, perhaps thanks to Gergiev's volatile conducting style, you wonder whether Prokofiev considered the balletic side of things at all. It is, despite the work's undisputed brilliance in evoking the spectrum of human emotion, a notoriously difficult piece of music to dance to. Yet this version demonstrates the majesty of Prokofiev's score without the need of a Russian ballet to bring it to life.
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