Myaskovsky • Prokofiev
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Myaskovsky: Symphony No. 21
Oslo Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko
Lawo LWC 1207 62:31 mins
Admirable it may be of Vasily Petrenko to continue his winning streak in an ever-growing discography by pairing symphonies by Prokofiev and his lifelong friend Myaskovsky, ten years his senior, but there can be no doubt what really matters here – a powerful and revelatory take on a masterpiece, Prokofiev’s Fifth. Its schizoid nature – epic and parody in alarming alternation – is highlighted by first and third movements stretched almost to breaking point, but with dynamic and textural detail keeping expressiveness and pathos afloat, the sonic extremes superbly handled in another engineering triumph by Lawo. The grotesquerie and the menace have never been better done; that remarkable passage for three snapping trumpets which leads back to a new terror in the return of the scherzo proper is hair-raising at a sustained tempo, the rapid acceleration to whirlwind speed all the more powerful. And the monstrous machine that finally devours the finale’s galop is all the more shocking here.
Myaskovsky’s chief virtue in his 21st Symphony of 1940 is a return to the brevity young Prokofiev had recommended when both students embarked on the art of the symphony back in 1908. The half-lights in which the work begins and ends seem genuine reflections of the composer’s depressive temperament; in between, a brio which belongs to an interwar work by a minor British composer comes up against the kind of romantic idea which could have been written in the late 19th century. An interesting bonus, then, but the Prokofiev is the bold and novel thing here.