Magazine article Gramophone

Prokofiev: Symphonies-No 4 (Revised Version, 1947)

Magazine article Gramophone

Prokofiev: Symphonies-No 4 (Revised Version, 1947)

Article excerpt

Prokofiev

Symphonies--No 4 (revised version, 1947), Op 112; No 7, Op 131 (two versions of finale) Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Litton BIS (F) [SACD] BIS2134 (82' * DDD/DSD)

Is Valery Gergiev unchallengeable in this repertoire? He may be at something like his best in his recent Mariinsky remakes but if you're looking for a sonically state-of-the-art option for home listening, Andrew Litton's latest disc arguably trumps them all. A consistently underrated maestro, he gets great results from the orchestra of which he is now conductor laureate after more than a decade at the helm.

Gone are the days when Western commentators would condemn the Fourth's Soviet-era recasting as an ideologically motivated distortion of Prokofiev's leaner original. Paradoxically it was Adrian Boult who directed what seems to have been the world premiere of the 1947 edition in a BBC broadcast. By 1950 the composer was getting few performances at home as a consequence of the renewed cultural clampdown of Stalin's last years. Like Marin Alsop, Litton has conducted this later, grander version extensively in concert, not least a fine rendition at the BBC Proms in 2011. Both Americans shape its discourse with an assurance not readily obtained in rehearse-record sessions. Alsop's softer, string-dominated sonorities work surprisingly well. However, it is Litton, helped by superior sound engineering, who allows detail to register more cleanly. More important, he makes the piece sound purposefully 'symphonic' and, in music twice refashioned by the composer over a 20-year period, that counts for a good deal. …

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