- Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100
- The Year 1941, suite for orchestra, Op. 90
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The first volume of a complete cycle of Sergey Prokofiev's symphonies on Naxos, this 2012 release by Marin Alsop and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra is an auspicious beginning. The "Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100," is one of Prokofiev's most admired works, and its monumental style is immediately identifiable and accessible to listeners. The heroic sweep of the themes and the drama of the development give the music a resolute quality, typical of Prokofiev's wartime works. Yet the music also holds a strong intellectual appeal in its coherent symphonic form and the powerful use of constant tonal movement, albeit in Prokofiev's manner of abruptly shifting, rather than smoothly modulating, to different keys. To fill out the disc, Alsop and the orchestra perform "The Year 1941, Op. 90," a symphonic suite that depicts the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in three volatile and epic movements. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra plays with considerable energy and force, and the performances are quite muscular and propulsive, giving both the suite and the symphony visceral expressions and great physical presence. Alsop is evidently a sympathetic interpreter of Prokofiev, because the tempo and pacing always feel spot-on, and the character of the music rings true. Naxos offers exceptional reproduction of the vivid instrumental colors with appropriately resonant acoustics, so this series starts off brilliantly, with worthy performances that sound terrific.