Alsop’s Prokofiev Improves With A Smart 4th Symphony

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Marin Alsop is making a lot of recordings; maybe too many. Her first release in this Prokofiev cycle, the Fifth Symphony, was disappointing, but this new installment is both intelligently programmed and very well played and conducted. Coupling the Fourth Symphony with the ballet The Prodigal Son is a smart idea, since the symphony is based largely on material from the ballet. The clear and informative notes explain what comes from where in a way that permits listeners to skip around in both works and check out the relationship (I did, and it was fun).

There are two versions of the Fourth Symphony, the original and the composer’s revised, longer, and more opulent version, recorded here. The argument in favor of the early version includes its more modest ambition as well as its closer relationship to the ballet. On the other hand, the revised symphony will please those not especially fond of the ballet, or those who don’t want to listen to two works so similar in content. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I will say that offering the later version makes for more generous playing time.

Neither of these works features melodic material of particular distinctiveness, even though it’s all recognizably Prokofiev in timbre and gesture. Alsop does a fine job characterizing the abundance of motoric material in the ballet, and she makes the lyrical moments in the symphony sound genuinely memorable. The orchestra plays very well throughout, and the sonics are naturally vivid, less like a big orchestra in a big empty room than in the previous release in this series. A fine disc.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Järvi (Chandos)

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