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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A must-listen from Jurowski, who could be the best Prokofiev conductor aliveAug. 7 2012
Santa Fe Listener
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This live Prokofiev Fifth from 2007, recorded in vivid close-up sound, displays Vladimir Jurowski's special gift with Prokofiev. It is perhaps his strongest composer on disc so far. Jurowski expresses something personal and interesting all the time. The Fifth has reached the status of a warhorse, but not played with this kind of at times overwhelming intensity, varied beautifully with fine detail, rhythmic vibrancy, and constantly shifting orchestral color. I admire Scott Morrison's reviews as among the best at Amazon, but in this case he seems to be enthralled by Karajan's famous recording, when I'm sure he would admit that there are other ways to play the score.
The Fifth is first cousin to Romeo and Juliet, and having lavished on the ballet an extraordinary range of orchestral colors and tones, Prokofiev transported them to a symphony, with dazzling results. Karajan tends to paint with one brush compared to Jurowski. You get the feeling of a quick-sketch artist responding to the moment here. Just yesterday I was carried away by a Fifth recorded by Mariss Jansons with the then Leningrad Phil. on tour in Dublin (Chandos), but Jurowski is twice as vital and alert. If you had asked me in advance, I would have seriously doubted that the Russian National Orch., which can sound smooth and homogenized under Mikhail Pletnev, could outdo the Leningrad Phil, with its unsurpassad legacy under Mravinsky, the fiercest of great Prokofiev conductors. but Jurowski has them on the edge of their seats, and the only shortcoming, if it is one, would be that the sinister side of Prokofiev's score hasn't been brought out very much. an aficionado of the work pointed out to me that the sinister side is there, yet Jurowski's reading is certainly full of visceral impact.
In all, a must-listen for anyone who loves this simphony.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Symphony 3 Stars; Ode 5 StarsNov. 8 2007
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Any recording of Prokofiev's 1944 Fifth Symphony has to compete with the luminous recording made by Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1968 which stands head and shoulders above any other ever made. It has never been out of print and is currently available at midprice. Sadly, this live performance by the incredibly talented and charismatic Vladimir Jurowski, recently named music director of the London Philharmonic, and his Russian National Orchestra falls well short of that benchmark. The orchestra itself sounds a bit logy and without bite, not a good thing in this symphony's rather thick orchestration, and Jurowski doesn't help matters by doing some strange things tempo-wise, particularly in the first movement. The exposition starts off well enough but when the second theme comes in Jurowski unaccountably slows w-a-a-y down only to speed up again in unexpected fashion at the end. What's going on here? I have no explanation, but I know it doesn't sound right. Actually after that things get better until the very end of the movement when there another accelerando not indicated in the score. The second movement is, however, fittingly ironic and the third, the adagio, is evocatively intense with emphasis given to the important piano obbligato and to Prokofiev's brilliant use of the tuba. The finale is OK, but not incandescent as it should be. Pentatone's recorded sound may be part of the problem, as it sounds congested in the climactic moments.
The filler on this disc is for me the highlight. I had never heard Prokofiev's 'Ode to the End of the War', written in 1945, although I'd read about it and assumed it was one of those potboiler patriotic things that Soviet composers were obliged to write. However, that assumption was dead wrong. It's a wonderful piece. All the more so because it has the oddest instrumentation -- Prokofiev was a master of unusual instrumental combinations -- and it works. The piece calls for 4 pianos, 8 harps (!), large percussion battery, wind band, and 8 double basses! It is fourteen minutes long, features Prokofiev's trademarked piquant harmonies, lots of very inventive percussion, coruscating writing for the pianos and harps and quite full chorale-like textures for the wind orchestra. It is not all solemn nor it is blindly celebratory; there are even moments of Prokofievian sarcasm. I listened to it three times in a row, marveling at how this piece has come to be all but unknown. Granted its unusual orchestration might make it hard to mount -- after all where are you going to find eight harps? -- but it deserves to be heard.
These are live performances from February 2007 and aside from some occasional soft coughs, the audience noise is minimal.