Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Sergey Prokofiev, Klaus Tennstedt, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra|
Sergej Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7
Listen to Samples
Superior Prokofiev from Tennstedt and the Bavarian Radio Orc
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One certainly would never think of Klaus Tennstedt as a conductor of choice for the symphonic music of Prokofiev. His reputation was made primarily with the central European canon. But over the years he conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony in a wide repertoire and one gathers these two superior performances of the Prokofiev Symphonies No. 5 & 7 derived from 1977 radio broadcasts with that group. They are by and large among the best Prokofiev symphony recordings I've encountered. After a somewhat flabby start to the monumental first movement of the Fifth, things almost immediately get better as they go along and both of these performances are really quite wonderful. I will admit a real weakness for Prokofiev's side-slipping harmonies and always slightly surprising (but delicious) melodies. One has the sense that Tennstedt has the same sort of reaction to Prokofiev's writing in these performances; he doesn't miss an opportunity to slyly underline those moments in the musical progress. And more important, he recognizes that underneath what some - particularly in the Seventh - might think is sugar-coated music is a sad, even resigned, as well as cynical, even furious, commentary rather more like Shostakovich than we generally credit. Prokofiev always goes down more easily than Shostakovich, but his awareness of the suppression of artists is fully the equal of his colleague's. Tennstedt brings out this duality of Prokofiev's music as well as any conductor I've ever heard. Is it possibly because of his own experiences with East German repression? -- after all he had crossed the Iron Curtain a mere six years earlier.
After the emotionally suppressed opening to the Fifth's first movement, the heat gets turned up for the movement's latter two-thirds and particularly with the second movement things get more colorful and more sharply articulated. Prokofiev's masterful polyphony is exhibited by the orchestra's sharply delineated playing here. The Adagio is slower than some but it accumulates a force that ends making one hold one's breath. The strings here are lush but there is a Slavic acidity, too, and that is perfect for the underlying message of this almost sinister movement. Tennstedt's vision of the Finale is one of demonic energy that threatens to cause the orchestra to fall apart. Rather, the frenzy builds, all the while in gestures that remind one of the faster sections of, say, 'Romeo and Juliet'. Prokofiev's ability to lower the temperature with lyrical passages is played for contrast and when the demented music returns it comes as a shock, just as it should. This is a great performance of a great symphony.
Typical commentary about the Seventh Symphony is that it represents a falling away of Prokofiev's powers, but Tennstedt certainly appears not to feel this. Granted there is less harmonic daring and formal complexity, but there is, if anything, even more of the emotional duality to the score. There is the surface geniality but underneath there is a longing, a sadness, a resignation that could be considered a slap in the faces of the artistic commissars. As to formal issues, the return of the first movement's sarcastic second theme as a major element in the finale is a formal masterstroke. Tennstedt uses Prokofiev's original quiet, knowing, resigned ending rather than the optimistic one that the commissars demanded, and that makes all the difference.
These are powerful performances from a seemingly unlikely source. The Bayerischer Rundfunk engineers did a marvelous job in giving us lifelike sound. There are barely noticeable audience sounds that detract not a bit from the experience, and the fact that these are live performances (although we are not told this by Profil) almost certainly lends a white-hot immediacy to the performances.
Robin Dalziell | West leederville, Western Australia Australia | 05/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can only agree with the comments of the 2 previous reviewers, and thanks to them, I now own the 2 great renditions performed on this disc.
Rarely will you hear Prokofiev's 5th and 7th symphonies with more sensitivity than here.
The attack Tennstedt inspires from the BRSO is awesome! All sections of the orchestra seem to relish Prokofiev's sense of the grotesque. There is no want the balletic or lyrical beauty either, nor of the epic - just listen to the cataclysmic climax of the slow movement of the 5th!
My only quibble was the lack of presence of the gong, however what a thrill to hear the growling tuba and trombones and uninhibited clarinets.
The 7th is hardly a cinderella piece and is given its best performance in decades.
The rarity of hearing outstanding performances of Prokofiev's last 3 symphonies(his greatest)on disc, let alone in concert programmes, is frustrating and totally unjustified. Here, Tennstedt has done the composer and us a tremendous service."
**** 1/2 Electric performances in great sound
John Grabowski | USA | 08/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wonder how many people realize that Sergei Prokokfiev is being a bit neglected nowadays. Sure there are plenty of recordings of the piano concerti (the Third in particular), the violin concerti, Romeo and Juliet, the solo piano and chamber pieces. But in the symphonic arena, there are few recordings of any symphony save the "Classical" and the Fifth, and in my opinion not many good recordings of the Fifth. I know Gergiev has recently done a cycle and I'm dying to hear it, as he strikes me as a very fresh conducting voice, but overall other choices for these works--which admittedly are uneven--are boring.
If you want a great Fifth-Seventh combo, though, look no further than the current disc. These passionate performances come from passionate performances (they have that raw intensity of live recordings, but that aren't as far as I can tell) with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, which you should try to hear live at least once in your lifetime if you can. (I'd call it one of the greatest musical experiences of my life.) Here Klaus Tennstedt makes us very sorry he didn't record lots more in the realm of the Prokofiev Symphonies before he died. After hearing many Fifths I thought were grossly overrated (Levine's much touted DG recording leaps to mind), I was blown away by the monumental epic scope of this interpretation. The strings are expressive and somewhat "old school"--they remind me of the great Philadelphia Orchestra in its prime (more on that in a moment). The winds are crisp and well-balanced. Brass bites and is sardonic. Percussion thunders as it should. Climaxes are unbelievable, earth-shattering, which is how they should be. So many performances are too fast (the Andante is more of a trot than a walking tempo) and key moments of drama are glossed over, key phrases aren't given shape. Not here. There are a few moments here where I think the phrasing is pedestrian or climaxes aren't all they could be, and the final first movement fermata should be held longer than it is. But overall this is a fine performance
The Seventh is equally thrilling. I'd like a *little* more bite in the scherzo as well as a little more satirical "happy-happy-happy-wink-wink" in the finale--here Gennady Rozhdestvensky is unsurpassed, but overall these are minor quibbles. I agree the more somber ending used here is more effective and distincive than the regular whiz-bang finale. Overall, this is an invaluable recording.
The only Fifth I've heard I would say is better is a 1975 recording by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra--again the strings here remind me very much of the sound on that release, and that's a good thing. This was out in vinyl days on RCA Red Seal, but has never gotten a CD release--with one exception. A very limited Japanese edition exists, and I've only been able to find it on one website (not Amazon's Japanese page, sadly). Since Amazon doesn't let me post URL links in reviews, I'll just say go to www-dot-cdjapan-dot-co-jp and type nothing by Prokofiev into the search engine. (Anything more specific won't find it.) On the fourth page you should see an album cover that looks like a tan canvass with a painting of Prokofiev's head. The album contains the Ormandy Fifth and a forgettable Peter and the Wolf with David Bowie. Never mind the Bowie--get it for the Fifth, another truly epic, thunderous reading with if anything even better phrasing and a greater sense of the architecture. I know Ormandy isn't the first name you think of for Prokofiev (although a really fine Sixth by him also exists in a rare broadcast recording) or for getting deeply into the *architecture* of a piece; you'll just have to take my word for it that he does it in the great RCA recording. I know there exists in the American market a budget Sony release of an earlier Philly Orchestra recording of the Fifth, but that one isn't nearly as good as this Red Seal performance. Price is 1500 yen and shipping is another 1500 yen, so the whole thing comes to about $20 American, and mine arrived in less than a week. Well worth it, in addition to owning the above CD. Get both, and you will the two best Prokofiev Fifths out there, both is great sound.