Prokofiev: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 437 838-2 DDD
Here on a single, full-to-the-brim CD, are the two Prokofiev symphonies rooted in works for the stage; though this latest instalment in Ozawa’s Prokofiev cycle – reissued with drastic studio surgery some time after its initial circulation – is not the most theatrical of experiences. Ozawa hangs fire as the themes of chivalrous Ruprecht and possessed Renata from the opera The Fiery Angel combine in the first movement of the Third Symphony, a fetid cutting from the operatic hothouse-plant; an orchestral work may be one thing and an opera another, but Prokofiev’s symphonic drive should be dramatic in itself. The Fourth Symphony’s Scherzo is the Temptress’s number from the ballet The Prodigal Son, modestly padded; Ozawa’s slow-motion meander – almost twice as long as Walter Weller’s reading on Decca – hardly dances.

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There are arresting sounds throughout, but they rarely link symphonically. Prokofiev’s ambitious 1947 recasting of the Fourth Symphony needs more urgent welding; the ingredients, new and old, may be fascinating, but Ozawa’s slower tempi sink the argument. Rich Berlin strings have plenty of engineering help at the expense of the brass in the Third and the slow-movement flute solo in the Fourth; both perorations, though – the last a hail-to-Stalin with grinding distortions – duly make the hair stand on end. David Nice