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Reviews: Prokofiev: Symphonies 1 "Classical" & 2, Dreams - Alsop

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Review by steviev November 27, 2014 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Tempos in the tricky Symphony 1 are lickety-split, 13'47" total, which seems to be the norm for this symphony. I prefer conductors who slow down and give the woodwinds a bit more time to characterize their solos, but apparently I'm in the minority. The Sao Paolo SO ably hammers out all the notes with only the faintest hint of strain in the most congested passages.

Prokofiev's Symphony 2 is in two movements, a sonata-form allegro followed by a theme and variations, superficially modeled on Beethoven's last piano sonata. The first movement is determinedly grim and intense, the harmonic pallet gray on soot on silver on black. The music chugs like a relentless industrial machine, interrupted by occasional bouts of hysterical brass -- this is as Futurist as Prokofiev ever got in his symphonies. The theme of the finale is doleful and mysterious, and little by little over the course of six variations this theme is transformed into a nightmarish march, cut off abruptly at its pounding climax to resume its original guise, becoming more and more beautifully, wistfully resigned until finally silence. No music can reasonably follow Prokofiev's 2nd, and Naxos wisely chose to end the programme here.

In between is Prokofiev's early "Dreams," a well-programmed respite between the playful 1st and dead-serious 2nd.

The balance on this recording is irritating, as was Naxos's earlier Prokofiev 4th. The violins are WAY over to the left, so most of the time the recording sounds out of balance to the left. Also, there's virtually no rear-channel action -- when I would switch between stereo and multichannel, I could hear no difference, none at all. This is typical of Naxos's Blu-rays. Bass is sufficient, but just barely.

The world still awaits a great multichannel recording of Prokofiev's 2nd Symphony.

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