Prokofiev’s music for the ballet Romeo and Juliet is a breathtaking adventure in color and pulse, and Stanislav Khristenko’s new recording of the solo piano version keeps all the excitement intact.
When Ukrainian-American pianist Stanislav Khristenko was 29 and won the coveted first prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition, he was a seasoned competitor. The big Cleveland award upped his total to thirty prizes in competitions around the world. Now at 35, he not only designs and performs imaginative recital programs, he’s also become a conductor. He also shares his secrets for preparing and weathering piano competitions by giving intensive workshops for young players.
Now Khristenko has released a new recording devoted to Prokofiev. It features the ten pieces from the brilliant ballet score Romeo and Juliet that the composer arranged for solo piano, as well as the delightful Ten Pieces, Op. 12.
There’s a lot required to pull the ballet music off, although it helps that Prokofiev, in arranging the pieces, was essentially getting back to their origins – he’d written them first for the piano, the instrument that Prokofiev himself played with a thrilling virtuosity and finesse. Khristenko brings an elegance to their lively detail and keeps in touch with the dance. Listen for the composer’s trademark effervescence in track 4 (“Juliet as a Young Girl”) and the irresistible pulse of track 5 (“Masks”) when Romeo and Mercutio crash the party (and it’s no party for the pianist!).
Getting to know the Ten Pieces is like finding a charming new friend. Khristenko loves and respects them and gives them an intimate and charged kind of elegance.
Get a feel for Khristenko’s rapport with the piano by watching him at the Cleveland Competition:
Listen to a track from the album: