Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Ode to the End of the War

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Ode to the End of the War
PERFORMER: Russian National Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: PentaTone PTC 5186 083
Vladimir Jurowski carries on his father Michail’s pioneering work, filling in another gap in the current Prokofiev discography with the Ode to the End of the War. This is ostensibly the optimistic armistice that many listeners think they hear in the Fifth Symphony’s more fraught finale. The Ode’s originality lies in its extraordinary use of orchestral resources, mixing the colours of no fewer than eight harps, four pianos and only double?basses among the strings. It also boasts three?and-a?half characteristic inspirations – two of them taken from the prohibited October Cantata composed eight years earlier in 1936. At all times, Jurowski keeps a clear head and focuses bright sonorities without ever letting the Russian players harden their tone.The Symphony, recorded live, reveals occasional infelicities in the brass chordings, and this master trainer clearly still needs to spend more time working with the RNO on a more vibrant string sound. But his masterful, long? fostered interpretation cries out for a recording – this year sees his third performance with the London Philharmonic – and his intensive approach to detail is always evident, especially in the fierce or sarcastic accents which cut across even the work’s more smoothly epic moments. I’ve certainly never heard the three snapping trumpets in the Scherzo or the nagging repeated notes in the finale more incisively handled. Since Tilson Thomas’s heavyweight approach (recorded on the Sony label, but not currently available) we’ve been in need of a newcomer to counteract those who buy into Sovietspeak cliché and the composer’s misleading talk of the ‘grandeur of the human spirit’; that’s here, too, but the performance is always quick to show its claws.

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