Prokofiev/Mosolov/Varese Orchestral Works

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Prokofiev/Mosolov/Varese Orchestral Works

  • Zavod, '(The) Foundry'
  • Symphony No. 3
  • Arcana

The three and a half minutes that it takes to stoke Mosolov's uncompromisingly fierce Iron Foundry conjure up a terrifying spectre of faceless hordes sweating in some vast mechanized factory. This was in the late 1920s, when in both Eastern and Western Europe art was still reacting to the futurist imagists of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Fillipo Marinetti, and Sergey Prokofiev was ready to launch his equally disruptive Pas d'Acier ballet. In fact, Prokofiev's convulsive Second Symphony was composed a year or so before Iron Foundry and anticipates (at least in the first movement) the shorter work's screaming, brass-dominated sound-world. Chailly is tougher on this epic-in-miniature than was Svetlanov some years back (on a now-deleted Olympia disc); a watchful foreman, he exerts necessary control over the proceedings, while the recording relates every cog and clanking piston-rod with immense dynamism. Svetlanov's was the more urgent, even frenetic statement, but Chailly builds the piece more convincingly and his recording is vastly superior.
Heard straight after the Mosolov, the opening of Prokofiev's Third Symphony sounds positively complacent—an impression due at least in part to Chailly's refusal to overstate the case. Much of the first movement is carefully calculated and rather overtly deliberate, although things hot up considerably for the central development, and the coda (which echoes the opening's rally call as if in a dream) is extremely delicate. Best of all is the song-like Andante, although the reptilian scherzo sports impressive dynamic extremes and the growling finale—always a tour de force under Chailly—is given its head by the engineers. Chailly had already recorded the work with the German Youth Orchestra (DG, 8/84—nla), a similarly contained affair which MEO thought understated ''the lurid and shadowed colours of the score''. Here I'd say that the understatement is more physical than textural, and if Kondrashin, Jarvi and Muti (not to mention the still-unavailable—and in many ways preferable—Leinsdorf, 7/67, Rozhdestvensky, 2/71 and Abbado, 10/70, all nla) still pack a surer wallop in this most hectic of symphonic statements, Chailly's remains among the more vital and intelligent digital options.
Arcana, too, emerges as more cerebral than visceral, with the quieter music in particular sounding like a galactical offshoot of Stravinsky and Debussy. The ''pounding, muscular figure in crotchet form'' that Calum MacDonald refers to in his excellent notes suggests a close relative of Stravinsky's Prince Kashchei, while elsewhere there are unmistakable premonitions of Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony. Arcana's aural canvas is vast and varied, although full of significant thematic interrelations and with some of the most original and striking orchestration heard anywhere in the first half of this century. Stokowski, the works' dedicatee, must have had a whale of a time with it, but Chailly's recording is as fine as any available today—although I'd love to hear a CD transfer of Jean Martinon's stupendous RCA Chicago version from the 1960s (7/67—nla).
This is an instructive, imaginative and involving programme, a sort of elevated 'listen and learn' that recalls a hugely exciting period of musical history (all three works were completed within a year or so of each other) and makes for a thrilling hour's worth of aural thunder. Do try and hear it.'

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