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Prokofiev: The Complete Symphonies
     

Prokofiev: The Complete Symphonies

by Valery Gergiev
 
In an era of countless new issues of Beethoven symphonies, numerous new collections of Bach, and daily infusions of mass-Mozart, it is gratifying to see a new addition to the recorded legacy of Sergey Prokofiev -- particularly to his symphonic output, which has never received the same attention

Overview

In an era of countless new issues of Beethoven symphonies, numerous new collections of Bach, and daily infusions of mass-Mozart, it is gratifying to see a new addition to the recorded legacy of Sergey Prokofiev -- particularly to his symphonic output, which has never received the same attention as the works of his contemporaries, namely Shostakovich. Indeed, in reality, this is partly due to the fact that Prokofiev was really a composer for the stage; his third and fourth symphonies were crafted largely in part from his opera "The Fiery Angel" and the ballet "The Prodigal Son," respectively. The Prokofiev symphonies that one is likely to encounter in the concert hall today include the famous "Classical First," the "Fifth," and the "Seventh." To most of us, the rest are relative unknowns. Perhaps this is why there exist only a handful of complete editions on disc, including compilations conducted by Seiji Ozawa, Neeme Järvi, Walter Weller, and Mstislav Rostropovich. And now, at long last, we can add the globetrotting Valery Gergiev's account to the mix. His entire career is based on an instinctual command of the Russian repertoire, especially his long history with the works of Prokofiev -- his first appearances as a conductor at the Kirov Opera were with Prokofiev's opera "War and Peace" (and yes, it's as long as the book). Thus, he is a natural choice as an interpreter for these works. Combined with the London Symphony Orchestra, this is a release that Prokofiev fans have awaited with great anticipation. The LSO and Gergiev are a great match for each other here -- good thing, since he was named the orchestra's principal conductor in May 2005. Although his loud grunts from the podium become tiresome by the time you get to the third disc, there is an indescribable energy boiling in these performances. While you might expect sounds in the typical Prokofiev character -- the bombast, the fire, not to mention the dark brooding and threatening qualities, there are some surprises. The "First Symphony" is a great case-in-point; while you might expect this to be a heavy-handed account, Gergiev pulls an amazingly crisp lightness from the LSO violins (who perform this very difficult work with amazing virtuosity). Where it's needed, though, Gergiev can pack the punch -- one only need listen to a few bars of the "Second Symphony" or the "Fifth Symphony" to hear the depth of sound he can create. Also exemplary is the icy atmosphere he creates for the C sharp minor "Seventh Symphony." The set comes with both versions of the "Fourth Symphony"; a must for die-hard Prokofiev fans. Perhaps the most astonishing thing (aside from the back cover of the CD box, which features a clean-shaven Gergiev) is that all the recordings featured here were recorded live. If you need a definitive set of the Prokofiev symphonies, look no further.

Editorial Reviews

Gramophone - David Gutman
The set confirms Gergiev as Prokofiev’s most ardent contemporary advocate. The visceral thrust and passion of the LSO’s playing knocks the likes of Ozawa’s Berlin Philharmonic into a cocked hat. Strongly recommended.
BBC Music Magazine - Daniel Jaffé
Gergiev’s performances here are never less than compelling and – given their live origin – are remarkable for the clarity of textures and the always purposefully shaped phrasing of even minor details.
Dallas Morning News - Lawson Taitte
A great way to get to know the less-played symphonies, top-notch performances of all seven-plus. (Grade: A)
Newark Star-Ledger - Bradley Bambarger
[Gergiev] is the most thrilling Prokofiev conductor around. He balances incisiveness with lyricism, realizing that Prokofiev was not only a rhythmic provocateur but one of the 20th century's greatest melodists.... The recordings boast an ultra-clear, high-impact sound.
The Guardian - Andrew Clements
Gergiev appears to respond best to the more obviously theatrical ingredients in Prokofiev's symphonic style, and he and the LSO are more in their element in the vivid imagery and grotesque drama of the Second and Third.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/16/2006
Label:
Philips
UPC:
0028947576556
catalogNumber:
000632902

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 1 in D major ("Classical"), Op. 25
  2. Symphony No. 4 in C major, Op. 112 (second version)
  3. Symphony No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40
  4. Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 44
  5. Symphony No. 4 in C major, Op. 47 (first version)
  6. Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100
  7. Symphony No. 6 in E flat minor, Op. 111
  8. Symphony No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 131

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