Prokofiev's now-famous ballet "Romeo and Juliet" had a difficult start in life. The Kirov Theatre commissioned Prokofiev to compose a ballet, but political changes resulted in cancellation of the planned production of "Romeo and Juliet." Prokofiev signed a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet and completed the score in mid-1935. The music was judged impossible to dance to, and a happy ending was suggested on the argument that the living can dance, the dead cannot. Still the ballet remained unstaged until a 1938 performance in Brno; meanwhile, Prokofiev's success with two Symphonic Suites and a piano version of the ballet attracted the attention of both the Bolshoi and the Kirov companies, who finally staged the ballet in 1940 and 1946, respectively.
With Prokofiev's approval, the gifted Moscow-born violist Vadim Borisovsky transcribed an eight-movement suite of this ballet for viola and piano. Later, he transcribed a further five excerpts, two of which required a second viola. Considering the complexity and orchestral lushness of Prokofiev's original score, Borisovsky created a remarkable transcription. Prokofiev's use of leitmotifs in the original ballet is cleverly portrayed by imaginative use of the viola's full register, harmonics, and bowing techniques.
The performances are top-notch and the recorded sound is splendid. Those who like the idea of excerpts from this ballet performed as intimate chamber-music will surely enjoy this CD.