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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, 18 November 2008
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Product Dimensions : 12.7 x 14.61 x 1.14 cm; 164.99 Grams
- Manufacturer : Chandos
- Original Release Date : 2008
- Label : Chandos
- ASIN : B001HY4TLE
- Number of discs : 4
- Customer Reviews:
On parle des sept symphonies de Prokofiev mais, en réalité, il en existe quasiment huit : la Quatrième existe en deux versions tellement différentes (Op. 47 de 1930 et Op. 112 de 1947) que l'on peut réellement parler de deux oeuvres différentes. En tous les cas, ces sept ou huit ouvrages couvrent toute la période créatrice de Prokofiev, de la Première (Symphonie classique) écrite trois ans à peine après sa sortie du Conservatoire, à la Septième terminée un an avant de mourir? En chemin, la Seconde conçue à Paris en 1924/25 lance son style « mécanique » ; la terrible Troisième reprend les thèmes les plus sombres et cataclysmiques de l'opéra L'Ange de feu ; la première Quatrième de 1930, plus urbaine, recycle bien des passages du ballet Le Fils prodigue ; la Cinquième, bien qu'écrite pendant les plus dramatiques années de la Seconde guerre, semble un rayon de soleil et un regain d'énergie ; la plus rare Sixième de 1947 présente une sorte de retour à la simplicité lyrique et élégiaque qui sied à cette époque de fin de guerre ; la seconde version de la Quatrième, 1947, s'écarte assez sérieusement du modèle précédent pour que le compositeur ait pensé un moment lui donner le numéro sept ; enfin, l'officielle Septième de 1952 répond à un cahier des charges dicté par la dictature (il est d'ailleurs bien normal qu'une dictature dicte?) : une musique simple, soviétique, réaliste, presque conçue pour des enfants, à partir de chants populaires de la sphère soviétique. Naturellement, Prokofiev ne serait pas Prokofiev s'il ne s'en tirait pas avec une pirouette. De la sorte, une oeuvre sensée être « simple » témoigne-t-elle en réalité d'une complexité d'écriture et d'orchestration de tous les instants !
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Of these works, the Sixth has the longest recording history after it won a valuable money prize in the Schubert centenary year (hence its nickname, 'Dollar') . The Third, a 'nature' symphony, is also reasonably familiar through older recordings. This CPO box, featuring three leading German State orchestras that share out the symphonies between them, is an excellent and economical way of getting to know the others as well, and makes a valuable contribution to the library of Scandinavian symphonies. The recording quality is excellent, and the conductor, Ari Rasileinen ( a new name to me) has really brought this marvellous music to life.
The Ninth is the odd man out here, arguably not a symphony at all, yet bound together as a single entity by its text, drawn from Icelandic legend. A notable feature is the use of the harp, placing the baritone soloist is the role of the bard, describing the descent of gods and humanity into a Nordic apocalypse. Both soloists and the choirs are excellent, and bring the text to life.
Of the other symphonies, I have chosen two of the least familiar for some extended comment.
Following soon after the tempestuous First, the Second Symphony in F major makes a sunny, untroubled start that gives place to the confident, noble march (an obvious candidate for a film sound track) that will recur throughout the symphony, gathering tremendous momentum. The second subject is a powerful statement by the full brass section, followed by quiet contemplations from the rest of the orchestra. These are developed through to a final section that affirms the positive character of the main tune in a glorious sonic outburst. The second movement is an experiment in structure, with alternating adagio and presto sections that work up their material. The final adagio, reminiscent of the closing pages of Richard Strauss's 'Death and Transfiguration', sounds as if it is about to end the symphony. But Atterberg has decided to add the conventional finale, in an outcome that (as the notes tell us) failed to satisfy him. Yet the finale arguably succeeds in both further developing the work's main theme, and unifies the symphony as a whole by making references to earlier movements. These are worked up into a satisfying conclusion in a massive life-affirming end that raises the roof.
Some reviewers have dismissed the Eighth Symphony as a sign of a failing inspiration, with too much repetitive material. Writing a symphony basically reliant on folk-tunes will inevitably run this risk, and the first movement is a prime case. After a grippingly intense opening,, the tempo abruptly speeds up and the main tune is presented in a variety of instrumental colours, perhaps outstaying its welcome towards the end in an over-emphatic summing up. The following adagio is so much better, with a hauntingly beautiful cor anglais solo that emphasises the sadness of so many folk-tunes when they are given the garb of a full orchestral treatment. The other main theme, a more cheerful cello gambol, lightens the mood somewhat but it still remains wistful and regretful. The two themes are skilfully combined in a major outburst, with the cor anglais leading other solo winds in the coda. There follows a light-footed scherzo. with perky rhythms. In the con moto finale the main theme of the symphony returns in many forms, bringing the work to a joyful end, though minor third intervals provide a nostalgic atmosphere. Not a symphony out of the top drawer - the Fifth and Seventh are better - but never less than proficient and I find myself increasingly drawn to its melancholic spirit: it is as if the composer is lamenting the departure of a vanishing world. I am heartened by the box set notes which remind us that after hearing it on the radio, Sibelius praised it in a letter to the composer. And that's good enough for me.
To sum up, a cornucopia of symphonic riches that will appeal to anyone who enjoys warm-blooded twentieth century tonal music.
All the symphonies are very rewarding musically with the probable exception of the second which earned a famous critical comment from the composer himself - see below.
The first, a student work of enormous ability, has always been popular possibly because of its nod to the Classical period as indicated by its title and shown by its construction and easy-flowing melodies. Jarvi steers a sure course through its apparent simplicity with sufficient grace and good humour.
The second symphony has the distinction of Prokofiev commenting that he was not sure if he liked it but it was what he had intended. The music is reminiscent of his 'industrial' period with the orchestra being used in an aggressive and seemingly mechanical way to portray a driven society. Jarvi's performance has all the power and aggression but is also able to make this more palatable than in some other cases.
Symphony 3 is one of Prokofiev's most imaginative and wayward symphonic scores. This is largely the result of its connection with the earlier opera 'The Fiery Angel.' That story involved a young girl obsessed with visions of a fiery angel. The story explores black magic, diabolical possession, exorcisms and the final burning of the girl at the stake for trafficking with evil spirits, thus becoming herself the fiery angel of her own visions. Prokofiev's music in the opera closely matches this strange and grotesque story so it is not surprising that these very imaginative musical concepts and strange textures when recycled in the symphony make the symphony rather unusual. Nevertheless it remains firmly lyrical in its nature and some of its otherworldly textures are not far from those found in his sometimes mysterious violin concerto 1. Jarvi and his orchestra prove to be admirably capable of delivering both the power and mystery of this score.
The fourth symphony also has links with stage works, the middle two movements being essentially a revisiting of the Prodigal Son ballet. The fourth is also published in two versions, both included here. The earlier 1930 version was considerably enlarged in the 1947 version. Both are very lyrical works sharing the same relationship to the ballet as mentioned above and both receive good and perceptive performances.
The sixth is generally reckoned to be the finest of the symphonies although the fifth is generally the most popular along with the first. The sixth was the first to be issued in this set and was immediately much praised as being especially fine. That leaves the seventh.The seventh has also two versions with a choice of endings although this box only offers the more usual and familiar ending. Jarvi ensures that this last symphony is not seen as a tailing off of inspiration as it is sometimes perceived.
This set has dominated the recommended lists ever since it was first issued. To that must now be added the equally superb set with Kitajenko which is newer, has a heavier sound which is partly to do with interpretation and partly to do with a fuller recorded sound. Both of these sets are equally fine while being quite different in their readings. Keen collectors would be the richer musically by owning both as they clearly complement each other. Purchasers looking for just one set could be equally content with either set.
So, as someone who has been familiar with these works in excess of 40 years and via several alternative recordings, I can sum this Jarvi set up as being of special musical quality and excellent sound. As such it should give most purchasers interested in this repertoire many years of pleasure and satisfaction.