Author Topic: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies  (Read 9992 times)

Offline richidoo

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Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« on: September 07, 2007, 07:40:50 PM »
Click it!

I love Prokofiev. I think he is the most important and accomplished 20th century composer. I have a very limited Prokofiev collection, and I like it that way. I don't ever want to run out of new Prokofiev material to listen to for the first time, so I ration myself very meagerly. It works out fine, because I love it so much, and it is so complex that I can spend many weeks listening to one piece and never get tired of it.

Last month I was browsing through Grammophone, the classical music magazine from Europe. This issue from last year had Christmas ideas, with some 50 contributing editors listing what records they would most like to give, and to recieve.  This new Prokofiev collection of all 7 symphonies was mentioned by half of them, most wanting to recieve it. So last week I gave in to temptation and got a used copy on Amazon. This is 4 discs all 7 symphonies, 4 of which I had never heard before. The terrible thing is that just last week I broke down again and opened up a Symphony #3 disc that I had resisted for several months while subsisting for a year on only #1 and #5. Then today I heard #4 for the first time. I gotta get back on the wagon somehow. The feeling of hearing something new is overwhelming. But there's only 3 left, so I will probably not listen to those for another 10 years. hehe

Tonight, when the walls stopped shaking after the 4th's thunderous and wrenching finale my wife said it was "a bit heady for her," and she was a little worried about the foundation of the house. HAHA very funny  :roll:  I was trying to compose myself emotionally so I could speak.

The recording on Phillips is excellent, one of the best I have of any music. The perspective is 20 rows back, which I like, it's not your typical balcony distant hall sound. With this close up view the textures and tonal colors are extremely vivid, dynamics are wide open. Bass drum seems a little tubby sometimes, but that's the recording hall. The technical performance of the London Symphony Orchestra musicians is stunning, and the conductor's interpretation is considered to be the best presently available. The conductor Valery Gergiev is supposed to be the world's foremost Prokofiev expert, whatever that means. All I know is that it is ballsy, emotionally intense, and very powerful music. I feel very blessed to have a system that does it justice and the curiosity to pursue music a little far out. The rewards are sublime.

If you like orchestral music that will make your pop off while tearing out your heart you might like this one. It's WILD!

Rich

kallitype

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2008, 08:42:53 AM »
  Wow, thanks for the recommend.  When I was a little kid in the 1950's, my parents had a 78RPM album of the Prokoviev 5th Symphony, it's long gone and I have no idea who the orchestra/conductor was, but I loved it and wish I could hear that original album again.  My mom is still alive at 90, I'll have to ask if she remembers.
   Wonder if there are singles of the Gergiev on SACD?? Too much to hope for?

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2008, 08:45:38 AM »
I don't know, but I have been finding more Prokofiev cycles out there, some far more highly recommended than this one, so I wanna try those too. I love the 5th on Telarc, comes with 1st. They are great performances and recording. Works best turned up LOUD! haha

kallitype

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2008, 04:13:40 PM »
Rich, I just ran across this muffled YouTube video of Lise de la Salle playing the Toccatta---stunning playing from a 19 year old.  She is going to be in Seattle Feb 20th, I just got tickets.  Really looking foward to her recital---2 Beethoven sonatas...THe Pathetique, and the Op. 31 E Flat, and Schumann etudes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUU_0QMoe2k


and from ROmeo and Juliet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCcWBvcPMUg

  A small woman with small hands and arms of steel!!! 

Offline rlmacklin

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2008, 01:58:30 PM »
I don't know, but I have been finding more Prokofiev cycles out there, some far more highly recommended than this one, so I wanna try those too. I love the 5th on Telarc, comes with 1st. They are great performances and recording. Works best turned up LOUD! haha

Rich,

Which Prokofiev cycles were far more highly recommended than the Gergiev SACDs ?

Thanks,
rlmacklin

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2008, 03:00:41 PM »
I will look for the review of this Gergiev box and see what other cycles they recommend. Gergiev's new LSO Mahler 6 just got trashed in Gramophone too. Tyson on AC might be good to ask.

Here are some to research, I haven't heard any of these yet. I would try the Jarvi first, I think.
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=192803
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=11895
http://www.amazon.com/Prokofiev-7-Symphonies-Lieutenant-Kij%C3%A9/dp/B00004SA89

Info and reviews on individual Prokofiev Symphonies:
http://www.prokofiev.org/recordings/catalog.cfm?id=37&h=Symphonies

Here is a review of the 4th commenting on versions by Rostropovich and Jarvi taken from their complete cycles. Some insights into each cycle.
http://www.prokofiev.org/recordings/album2.cfm?aid=000044


Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2008, 03:01:56 PM »
Here is the Gramophone review of the Gergiev/LSO cycle:


Hefty, raw orchestral playing and some of the finest Prokofiev on disc
 In Shostakovich’s anniversary year it is as well to be reminded of the symphonic legacy of Sergey Sergeyevich Prokofiev, his senior colleague and sometime rival. David Nice’s heavyweight booklet-notes seem aimed at making of Prokofiev a Shostakovich manqué. But the composer’s less caring personality, lack of social and political engagement and frequent failure to consider what a symphony might be (beyond a mould to be filled with wonderful tunes and short-term effects) need not alter the fact that there is some tremendous music here which deserves to be on every collector’s shelf. For all its protean variety it’s an idiom that responds well, perhaps better than Shostakovich’s, to Valery Gergiev’s extrovert, sometimes brusque approach. If that sounds like criticism, I should say at once that the new performances of the Second, Sixth and Seventh are probably the finest on CD. While the Third packs a supercharged punch, it may be found too raw and driven for its subtleties to register. The familiar Classical No 1 gets the most destabilising treatment with a stodgy opening movement and a whirlwind finale. The cycle was taped live during Gergiev’s Barbican series in May 2004 and emerges now not on the orchestra’s own label but in Philips livery. Given the venue’s acoustic problems, sound-quality is better than one dared hope – bold, immediate and lacking only the last ounce of depth and allure. As those who attended will recall, the maestro directed with a toothpick and a gestural armoury all his own. Whatever the difficulties, the players deliver the goods with a hefty, if not overly refined, sonority we shall doubtless be hearing more of in the future. A pity that there was no space for the optimistic final flourish Prokofiev tacked onto his Seventh Symphony in pursuit of Stalin Prize winnings. Both alternatives were given in concert. That said, there’s enough toughness and disquiet in what has gone before to make its omission feel right. We do get both editions of the Fourth, not always the case in previous recorded intégrales. Any sense of disappointment there may be associated with the music’s relative poverty of invention, though there is more charm in the material than the conducting allows. Swallowed whole as it must be, the set nonetheless 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.  - David Gutman

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2008, 03:03:09 PM »
Here is a review of the Ozawa/BPO from Gramophone:

Budget price but musically disappointing – neither Ozawa nor the BPO have the measure of Prokofiev’s idiom
 On paper this looks like a winner. The Berlin Philharmonic is easily the most prestigious orchestra to have attempted all the Prokofiev symphonies on disc and there are usually more than incidental pleasures to be had from hearing them in any repertoire. Rob Cowan was generous, hailing a ‘cycle which, broadly speaking, has found the BPO in sympathy with a corpus of music they can’t have encountered very often’. I have to say I find that lack of familiarity more of a problem. Notwithstanding the lure of DG’s competitive pricing and a splendid design concept, I would advise approaching with caution. Some may like the heft of these big, solid recordings (and the implausibly audible piano), but too often the close-miked strands sound as if they have been reassembled at the mixing desk. As interpretations, they are consistently bland.
It is the Classical Symphony that receives the most individual treatment. Indeed, the first three movements will seem astonishingly broad to anyone brought up on the quicksilver dash of Koussevitzky (Biddulph). The humour is much diminished, though there are compensations in the detail unearthed. No 6 comes next, and here Ozawa merely glides across the surface, failing to give the ideas the edge and bite without which the argument falls flat. Mravinsky’s sonically disadvantaged but incendiary live recording (Praga) is an essential supplement to any mainstream choice. On to the second disc, where the Allegro of No 2 had me longing for the raw venom of Rozhdestvensky’s Soviet winds. Admittedly the second movement goes better, Ozawa securing more refined playing than we have usually heard in this music. In the Seventh, he chooses the original, darker ending that omits the final flourish. Only there isn’t enough pain or disquiet in what has gone before to make the decision seem anything but arbitrary. Nor is it easy to forgive second-rate playing from this source, as in the slow movement where duff horns provoke a thoroughly uncertain patch from 4'26''.

The next CD couples the Third and Fourth, two works that desperately need committed performances if they are to convince as symphonies. In 1947, Prokofiev himself revisited the Fourth, adding a veneer of Soviet pomp to this ragbag of offcuts from his final Diaghilev ballet, The Prodigal Son. Like Weller and Kosler in their cycles, Ozawa chooses the gutsier later version whereas Jarvi offers both. Fortunately, the slow movement in either guise retains one of Prokofiev’s most beautiful and archetypal ideas. Initially allocated to flute, that key line is almost buried here. But by now I was hardly expecting Ozawa to be truly inside this music. The third movement is untenably slow, and, as usual, not enough time has been spent on tidying awkward corners (there’s an astonishing woodwind gaffe in the first movement at 12'19'').

The Fifth was a Karajan speciality (see page 78), so there’s no excuse for the momentary shambles when, just before the close, Prokofiev suddenly reduces the dynamic level as if to make us confront the compromised and fretful quality of the rejoicing (from around 9'32''). As so often in this series, the self-consciously analytical recording style lets us hear too much sloppily articulated detail. The makeweight is Kije, ubiquitous enough though rarely heard as here with guest vocalist; that famous ‘Troika’ sounds much less bland with Andreas Schmidt in the driving seat. Elsewhere the handsome upholstery cannot disguise what seems to me a fairly profound lack of engagement all round. Admirable booklet-notes by David Fanning can’t save the project. If you want an integrale under one conductor, Jarvi is worth the extra outlay.'    - David Gutman
 

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2008, 03:06:00 PM »
Here is a review of the Rostropovich from Gramophone


When the Fourth (1930 version) and Seventh Symphonies appeared independently last year, RL was none too enamoured, neither was I. Rostropovich dwelt fondly, rather too fondly, on and around the Seventh Symphony's dreamier flights of fancy. Speeds were leisurely, even listless, transitions sometimes awkward, rhythms surprisingly sluggish; though he did at least insist (and few do) on the original quiet ending of the Seventh—wistful, ambiguous; 'they lived happily ever after...'—or did they? That in itself gave him one firm advantage—the only one—over Jarvi's outstanding Chandos account which RL originally reviewed in its LP format in April 1986.
Now that the cycle has appeared in its entirety, readers will first want to know if the Seventh is typical of Rostropovich's approach in general. To some extent, yes. There is a tendency to linger and labour (the Classical Symphony is extraordinarily heavy-handed); and even where the speeds are more or less consistent with, say, Jarvi's choices, Rostropovich usually sounds slower. It's a question of movement, of accentuation. Indeed, on occasions one inevitably begins to question his technical ability (as a conductor) to convey all that he undoubtedly feels about these pieces. In the darkest of the symphonies—the forbidding Sixth—tension is certainly sacrificed to breadth. The enormous first movement may brood effectively enough, the melancholy runs deep, episode for episode. But the cumulative impact, particularly as we approach the climax of the development (throbbing sustained B flat in the horns which Rostropovich does not stint), is not all that it should be. Likewise the contrast between slow movement and finale. The latter must initially sparkle and smile more if Prokofiev's ugly revelation across the final page of all is to shock as it can and should. This is the point at which the folkdance rhythm from earlier in the movement undergoes hideous transformation and dancing feet turn to marching jackboots. The distinction, in Rostropovich's hands, goes for very little.

To be fair, Erato's spacious recorded image—as deep as it is wide but a little too 'generalized' for my liking doesn't exactly help in matters of rhythmic profile and internal clarity. If one turns to the 'Black Mass' decadence of the Third Symphony where textures are consistently dense and fantastical, the problem grows more troublesome by the bar. In the finale (conjuring, as it does in my mind, frenzied scenes of ritual exorcism), Prokofiev's great washes of sound are imposing, to be sure, but none too well defined. Even the strings—and in particular the violins, so critical in all the biggest tuttis where their searing high registers are pitted against heavy wind and percussion—sound oddly recessed. But in any event, Rostropovich's grasp of outline and rhythm here could always be tighter: he fails to clinch the orgiastic first movement climax by making so little of Prokofiev's electrifying change of gear; the slow movement wafts and meanders, lacking the sensual potency of a performance like Jarvi's; tension ebbs in the grisly scherzo.

Undoubtedly the most accomplished among these performances are those of the Second and Fifth Symphonies. The Fifth was the earliest of the recordings to be made (October 1985) and is in many ways the most impressive. The woodwind voices are definitely better projected; the strings sound fuller and marginally more immediate. I might single out the first movement's climactic processional with low brass and heavy percussion weighing-in to thrilling effect: all the more effective for the sense of purpose and cogency that Rostropovich achieves in this movement—indeed the whole symphony. Tempos are of a middlerange variety (first movement not far off Jarvi's speed: broader than Jansons/Chandos or Karajan/DG but well short of Bernstein's all-time record for CBS), languor is for the most part kept well in check (though, as one might expect, he does indulge his cellos in their extended solo at the opening of the finale); the quirkiness of scherzo and finale (some very piquant woodwind contributions oboe especially) is keenly observed. I don't know of anybody who has made the final bars of the symphony sound quite so dottily eccentric.

No less striking in its way is the relentless 'iron and steel' of the Second Symphony's first movement. Prokofiev sought to pull the rug from beneath our feet with his ferocious opening bars; Rostropovich duly obliges. The strident French National trumpets come ruthlessly into their own, here, and for some 12 minutes there is very little let-up. The dissonance is properly uncomfortable. I have heard more colourful and gripping accounts of the undeniably problematic second movement: theme and variations. But then again I don't ever recall it sounding so dark or so grimly unsettling as it does here: shades of black and grey, and very effective too.

Like Jarvi, Rostropovich offers both versions of the 'Prodigal Son' Fourth Symphony—the original 1930 score being an altogether more disciplined piece of writing than the longer, extensively re-worked and more opulently orchestrated 1947 version. To be honest, I've never been entirely convinced by either. But for the exceptionally beautiful flute melody of the Andante tranquillo—Rostropovich enjoys that—the paucity of Prokofiev's material badly lets him down. The 1947 revision is frankly a mess: trite ideas, aimlessly over-worked, seemingly inexhaustible motor-rhythms driving the piece nowhere. I don't know of any conductor who could disguise that fact. Even so, it is virtually a different symphony from the 1930 original and as such an integral part of any complete cycle. I presume Erato are planning individual releases to follow up on last year's coupling of the 1930 Fourth and Seventh. I hope so, because as you will have gathered, this is far too variable a cycle to recommend as a cycle. Particularly with Jarvi's set there to shadow it.' - Edward Seckerson
 

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2008, 03:15:04 PM »
Sorry, no review of Neene Jarvi's cycle on Gramophone. It is is Chandos 8931
http://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%208931

Good luck!!

Offline rlmacklin

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2008, 06:34:27 AM »
Thanks Rich !

A lot to digest ...

rlmacklin

After looking at the reviews linked by rich,
will probably get the Jarvi set first ... and perhaps individual CDs

Thanks again to Rich for providing the information.

rlmacklin
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 07:38:57 AM by rlmacklin »

Offline rlmacklin

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2008, 01:14:08 PM »
Rich,

I found the lowest priced "used -very good" (no scratches/plays perfectly) set
of Neeme Jarvi/Royal Scottish National Orchestra's Prokofiev "Complete Symphonies" set
through Amazon Marketplace listed for $32.95 -
and the seller was a used CD/books shop right in my hometown. 
Called and had them hunt it on the shelves and hold it for me and picked it up last Friday after work. 
Not only saved the $2.98 shipping fee, but they gave it to me at $28.00 instead of the $32.95. 
I agree with Tyson's recommendation of this set over on Audio Circle.

rlmacklin

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2008, 07:32:56 PM »
Great deal!!  Maybe report back after a while let me know if it's as good as everyone says! If you like it maybe I'll get it too. Maybe we can swap some mp3s for comparison.

Offline richidoo

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Re: Gergiev's Prokofiev Symphonies
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2009, 08:22:25 PM »
This set is on sale now at ArkivMusic. It's a great set, the only flaw is the conductors breathing is audible, but not too distracting.

http://www.arkivmusic.com/albumpage/133961-E548-5