WORKS: Symphony No. 4 in B flat. Symphony No. 6 in E flat minor
PERFORMER: Leningrad PO/Evgeny Mravinsky
CATALOGUE NO: PR 256004 ADD mono
These two live Mravinsky performances of different vintages, one (the 1955 Beethoven) previously unissued, have little in common other than the conductor’s meticulous concern with dynamic detail. Indeed, though the Prague audience tries its hardest to sabotage them, his intensive pianissimos are at their most impressive in the Beethoven, more so than in the 1973 recording reissued on BMG Melodiya, which lacks an exposition repeat in the first movement and reveals a new approach to the grace notes in the development. This earlier Fourth also reveals a passage of ineffable charm not usually associated with Mravinsky, the first violins’ buoyant response to the woodwind in the trio of the scherzo.
Mravinsky’s reading of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony is rightly short on comfort, highlighting the spare, sometimes bald orchestration if perhaps a little harsh in driving forward the few nostalgic moments when they need to bloom. About the shattering ending Mravinsky is unequivocal; Soviet musicologists used to talk about its major-key optimism, but they could never have really meant it if the conductor of the symphony’s premiere had sandblasted his way through the last few bars as he does here. The 1967 Czech Radio recording is as naked as the interpretation, but there’s refreshingly little distortion. David Nice