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on 26 April 2017
Better than anticipated
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on 16 June 2009
The Chandos Prokofiev symphonies cycle by Neeme Jarvi and the SNO made a huge impact when first recorded in the 1980s and still stands up well to the competition. Add to that, many other recordings of Prokofiev orchestral work s with Jarvi and the SNO on Chandos and there is a rich treasure trove to explore.

The material for the third and fourth symphonies is drawn from operatic and ballet sources - Fiery Angel and the Prodigal Son. The Third Symphony is very abrasive and dramatic but still works satisfyingly as a symphonic whole rather than as a series of tone poems. This is a fine performance but there is strong competition from Muti, Gergiev and Weller here. Indeed although Weller's version is the oldest it reveals a great deal more orchestral detail and symphonic coherence than this recording. It is still, however and dramatic and exciting account.

The Fourth is a problem, however. Based on material from his ballet "The Prodigal Son" Prokofiev thought enough of it to produce a more extended version in his later years. On the face of it the music is more lyrical and less dissonant than the third but it is, melodically, less than memorable - untypically for Prokofiev; he seemed to put his hair shirt on when composing the fourth deliberately never dwelling on the material and including abrupt changes. Prokofiev was reaching something of a cross road in his career, anxious to still appear fashionable in France but beginning to turn his back on the dissonance of his previous two symphonies. Arguably, he didn't find a clear direction until he returned to the Soviet Union.

He addressed the rather cursory treatment of the material in the original version to produce a much more expansive revised version after World War 2. Although the material was the same as the ballet, the fuller orchestration and development of themes makes it sound like later Prokofiev - the Prokofiev of Romeo and Juliet and the Fifth Symphony.

Others have often chosen to ignore the first version of the Fourth and record the revised one. We should at least be grateful to have the opportunity to hear the "original". For completeness it is a must for collectors but its bald neo classicism was a blind alley for Prokofiev.

The performances are as excellent as ever from Jarvi and the Scottish National Orchestra though, as is often the case with the Chandos Prokofiev series, the sound is rather bright and harsh with a touch too much reverb, causing a loss of detail in places. That's not a show stopper however and the cd is worth purchasing for the Third symphony and the curiosity value of the original Fourth.

The price is very competative but you might be better served buying the full set; very competitively priced. The Weller set is an even better option, superbly recorded and performed and cheaper still, though this doesn't include the original version of the fourth. The Kitajenko cycle has been roundly praised but can't compete with Jarvi or Weller on price. The Gergiev set has had rather mixed reviews.

So, in short, this is a fine recording but it is worth shopping around. Indeed I belief that Chandos have since re released the Jarvi Prokofiev symphonic cycle with improved sonics so that might be worth exploring too. Either way, Weller or Jarvi you're going to get a great bargain.
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on 5 May 2016
Excellent. Replaced the same recording I had on music cassette.
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