WEINBERG Symphony No 5 PROKOFIEV Symphony No 5
Why re-record Weinberg’s Fifth? Well, it is certainly a standout piece in his output of 26 symphonies, constantly astonishing by its lyrical and rhythmic inventiveness, its mastery of transition and the subtlety of its moods. I can also understand why Chmura might want to give the young players (all under 30) of Sinfonia Iuventus the chance to advocate it, and indeed why he might find three of Weinberg’s four as yet unrecorded symphonies – Nos 9, 11 and 15 – ideologically unpalatable because of their pro-Soviet ideological orientation. However, 14 years on from his Chandos account there is no drastic difference in terms of Chmura’s interpretation of the Fifth, so this does feel like something of a lost opportunity. The first movement is admittedly a little tighter and some rhythms are more precisely etched, while Chmura’s empathy with the slower movements remains as perceptive as before. However, Kondrashin’s more sharply contoured approach to the overall drama – by turns more mysterious, fiercer and more dangerous – throws into relief the painful search for composure in the slow movement and finale that I find a good deal more compelling.
As for the Prokofiev, its ultra-smooth opening commands respect, and once again all the textures are carefully shaped and precisely placed. But the downside is that the music never quite takes wing, and there is simply more at stake in human terms in Karajan’s reading – hear the menace he brings to the first-movement coda, for instance, over and above Chmura’s broadening and amplification (the same goes for the darker phases of the slow movement). Similarly, the Scherzo feels a little too laid back, especially in its second theme, and though it does develop considerable verve in the later stages, there is always more dash and élan from Karajan’s Berliners and Gergiev’s Londoners. Most conspicuously, the finale feels unduly reined in throughout and the hyperventilating coda, though fast enough, sounds tame by comparison with starrier rivals, Karajan above all.