Prokofiev: Symphonies Nos 3 & 7
This first CD in a new symphonic cycle presents two contrasting works. The menacing Third Symphony, its thematic material drawn from Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel, dates from the 1920s when he was temporarily living outside the USSR. By the early 1950s, when Prokofiev completed his Symphony No. 7, he had returned home and his style had become far less complex due to both personal impulse and political intervention. Yet Prokofiev’s sharply defined personality shines through both symphonies.
Kirill Karabits, supported by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s outstandingly responsive playing, gives an utterly compelling account of the Third. Its opening movement, the Finale and the outer sections of the Scherzo are highly charged and suitably demonic in expression, while ominous clouds destabilise the slow movement’s sensuality. More importantly, Karabits brings organic cohesion and textural clarity to a work that is sometimes criticised for being too symphonically diffuse.
Karabits’s performance of No. 7, with both its reflective conclusion and the alternative upbeat ending recorded, is if anything even more remarkable. As Karabits comments in the illuminating booklet notes, this symphony, ostensibly written for children, is in fact a profoundly tragic work by a deeply wounded man looking back nostalgically at the end of his life to the innocence of youth. This subtext is evident even in the helter-skelter exuberance of the second movement, or in the forced joviality of the opening of the Finale.