Anyone who thinks the album title is aimed at listeners who play the album around cuddly hours at the open fireplace is wrong. Rather, it is true that the conductor Stéphane Denève compiled pieces from the Prokofiev ballets "Romeo and Juliet" and "Cinderella" to suites according to dramaturgical aspects, referred to for the present album as "Romantic Suites". As a result, the suites are reasonably different from the composer's own suites, which, according to Denève, lack any narrative quality that characterizes a successful action ballet. The composer's suites were nothing but an arbitrary juxtaposition of pieces of the original ballets devoid of any dramaturgy. This is not all that new, as it has repeatedly led conductors to perform their own compilations of pieces of these ballets in the concert hall. What is new, however, is the consistency with which Stéphane Denève has compiled the pieces with a view to a comprehensible dramaturgy. In doing so he has assented and accepted that his Romeo and Juliet Suite with nearly 40 and his Cinderella Suite with at least about 30 minutes exhibit symphonic dimensions. Since Denève proves to be a clever dramaturge and since Prokofiev has delivered with his two ballets compositional masterpieces, almost overflowing with color and vehemence, contrasted by intimate tenderness afar from any kitsch, the undertaking "Romantic Suites" may be described as extremely successful.
However, the album is recommended not only because of the pieces of the two Prokofiev ballets convincingly compiled by the conductor to a stringent narrative, but also because of the self-reliant interpretation of the "Romantic Suites" and because of the technical quality of the Brussels Philharmonic, emerged from a local radio symphony orchestra, matured into a European top orchestra under its chief conductor Stéphane Denève within a few years. The fragrant light gait together with glaringly bright, razor-sharp dynamic peaks indicate that both the orchestra and the conductor belong to the French cultural space. In 2015, Stéphane Denève had successfully exported the French ideal of sound in his position as head of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra to the French neighbor to the east, before taking over the Brussels Philharmonic. Several albums with the RSO Stuttgart under Denève announce the successful cultural export, whose brightly illuminate, multi-colored orchestral sound has not been heard in Stuttgart since the times of a Sergiu Celibidache, and which Stéphane Denève took to Brussels, where it apparently was picked up readily by the Francophile-oriented Brussels musicians. It will be interesting to see if the French conductor will succeed in exporting his idea of sound to the United States, where he will soon take up his post as head of the St Louis Symphony.
To all friends of the Russian composer Prokofiev, who with his two ballets "Romeo and Juliet" and "Cinderella" proves to be a first-rate sound magician and dynamics extremist, but also to all those who so far have passed this ballet music, the album "Romantic Suites" is highly recommended, not least because of the opulent sound of the high-resolution download.
Stéphane Denève, conductor