ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3 & 4 (1930 version)
PERFORMER: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/James Gaffigan
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72584 (hybrid CD/SACD)
This first release in yet another projected Prokofiev symphonic cycle has outstandingly vivid recorded sound, particularly resonant in the bass end of the orchestra. This serves to intensify the menacing quality of the lower brass and percussion in the outer movements of the Third Symphony, here performed with dramatic flair and a real sense of foreboding. Somewhat less convincing is the third movement. Although the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic plays the music with consummate virtuosity, the eerie string passagework seems mechanical and strangely bereft of the necessary feeling of anxiety.
I have some reservations, too, about James Gaffigan’s approach to the first version of the Fourth. The tempo for the first movement’s slow introduction is surely too slow to sustain the necessary flow; this problem also affects continuity in the ensuing Andante tranquillo, despite some wonderfully sensitive solo woodwind playing. Indeed, a direct comparison with the Kirill Karabits recording of the same work (reviewed in November) demonstrates that despite the disadvantage of noticeably inferior recorded sound, the Ukrainian presents a far more strongly characterised view of the music and a greater transparency in projecting Prokofiev’s occasionally dense orchestration.