Fine Prokofiev Sixth from Litton and Bergen

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony seems to be a tough work to pull off, and it’s a credit to Andrew Litton and his team that they do it so well. The first movement, which so often fizzles at the climax, here builds inexorably to a violent but at the same time texturally transparent apotheosis. Most versions of the long central Largo (it’s longer than the first movement) expire well before the end. This one doesn’t; it’s expertly paced and well-contrasted, the bittersweet lyricism very effectively projected. The finale remains at a high voltage straight through the elegiac coda; the final pages are properly explosive.

Similarly, this performance of the suite from The Love for Three Oranges is really stunning: bright and dazzling, elegant and full of humor. The same, alas, can’t be said of Lieutenant Kijé. If Litton has a fault, it’s a tendency to outsmart himself, to be different for its own sake. He did that in his disc of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites, rearranged in “ballet order”, as if that’s a musical plus when the composer has arranged each suite for maximum color and contrast.

Here he includes the original vocal parts in the Romance and the Troika, as if we need to hear some clown singing, over and over in Russian, “a woman’s heart is like an inn; people come and go from everywhere day and night.” It’s hopeless, even if baritone Andrej Bondarenko sings very well. I wouldn’t say that this ruins the performance, which taken on its own terms is very good, but I’m going to listen to the other 60 minutes of music on the disc before this Kijé. The sonics, typically from this source, are very good, perhaps a touch dry in the bass, but extremely clear and honest.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Symphony: Järvi (Chandos); Suites: Ormandy (Sony)

    Symphony No. 6; Lieutenant Kijé Suite; Suite from The Love for Three Oranges

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