Prokofiev (The) Symphonies

One old friend, one newcomer, broadening the choice in Prokofiev

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Sergey Prokofiev

Genre:

Orchestral

Label: Chandos Classics

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 0

Mastering:

Stereo

Catalogue Number: CHAN10500X

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Symphony No. 1, 'Classical' Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 2 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 3 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 4 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 5 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 6 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 7 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Neeme Järvi, Conductor
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer

Composer or Director: Sergey Prokofiev

Genre:

Orchestral

Label: Phoenix Edition

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 0

Mastering:

Stereo

Catalogue Number: 135PHOENIX

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Symphony No. 1, 'Classical' Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 2 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 3 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 4 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 5 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 6 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Symphony No. 7 Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Dmitrji Kitajenko, Conductor
Sergey Prokofiev, Composer
While Shostakovich’s symphonies are core repertoire nowadays, Prokofiev’s symphonic output has been less fortunate. This may be changing. Even the Berlin Philharmonic has attempted them, though sadly Ozawa’s direction is lacklustre and the sound stage seems to have been created at the mixing desk. Gergiev’s intégrale is vastly superior when not merely frenetic but it too has sonic limitations, the blunter sound of London’s Barbican Hall all too faithfully conveyed. There’s room for the latest sets, one an old friend, the other new to the lists.

As a Prokofiev interpreter Neeme Järvi is among the best. The wide-open spaces conjured by the Chandos sound team can’t quite disguise the weak string tone and there are some awkward corners in the playing. Nevertheless this remains an attractive, well annotated option at its new price.

The Kitaenko cycle proves controversial. Sonically speaking it’s ahead of the competition with the orchestra exceptionally well prepared – live recordings maybe but you’d hardly register the fact as Cologne is blessed with an acoustically wonderful hall. I just wasn’t sure what to make of the conductor’s consistently broad and lyrical approach. The resort to five rather than the customary four CDs (as usual including the revised and unrevised Fourths) does at least allow for a logical presentation, notwithstanding a few eccentricities in the multinational booklet-notes.

For most listeners choice will rest between Gergiev and Kitaenko and it really is swings and roundabouts. The latter’s Classical Symphony works better than Gergiev’s, comparably relaxed, even ponderous in the Larghetto, yet with a more consistent treatment of the finale. Kitaenko’s coupling is the Seventh, a dark, introverted reading of a score Gergiev manipulates with a stronger hand, remaking its waltz movement into a fully fledged symphonic scherzo. In the Second Symphony I missed the LSO’s grit whereas, in the Third and Fourth(s), it is Gergiev who fails to deliver, rushing his fences so that Prokofiev’s exquisite textural detailing goes by the board. Neither Fifth is outstanding, Gergiev too pushy, Kitaenko a little pale.

In the Sixth Kitaenko is the more literal guide but his restraint does not extend to the passage in which the music collapses in on itself, evoking one of Prokofiev’s hypertensive episodes with horns painfully wheezing over irregular low pizzicato heartbeats. As with Järvi and Rostropovich, the overall structure is paced so that the central slow movement emerges as the work’s longest and biggest. Kitaenko also obeys, as few interpreters now do once the finale has turned unmistakably to tragedy, the a tempo injunction at fig 60. Hence there is no final grimace such as you find with Järvi or Gergiev.

How to sum up? The extrovert Gergiev leaves you in no doubt that smash-and-grab overstatement is a crucial part of the composer’s armoury whereas Kitaenko, ever lucid, sees him as a primarily elegiac figure with a very particular sound world. Järvi comes somewhere in between. We are lucky to have the choice.

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