Prokofiev: Symphonies 1 & 2; Sinfonietta; Autumnal Sketch

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Symphonies 1 & 2; Sinfonietta; Autumnal Sketch
PERFORMER: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4139

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The sound balance worried me on the first instalment in Kirill Karabits’s Bournemouth Prokofiev series, all the more surprising from a hero engineer, Mike Clements. They do so here, as well, especially in Prokofiev’s most embattled and polyphonic symphony, the Second. With strings both over-prominent and reverberant – clearly Poole’s Lighthouse is not the easiest of venues to manage – brass chants are too covered and the second movement oboe theme which brings balm to the riot sits some way behind its accompaniment.

Not that Karabits’s is the most exciting of interpretations: it simply happens, rather than moving to strident goals like the big developmental climax. Accepted, the injunction here is ben tenuto rather than a big overall holding back, but it works so much better as demarcated by, say, Neeme Järvi, and even Marin Alsop on her recent recording (reviewed Christmas 2014).

The programming is vivid, if not chronological: the lovely, carefree clarinet tune of the early but much revised Sinfonietta is just what we need to follow the stomps and mysteries of the Second Symphony, even if not all the material here is as interesting. Oddly the work rarely makes it to CD or the concert-hall, edged out, I suspect, by the later Classical Symphony every time. So it’s welcome, but still needs more charm and character. The same goes for the Classical, except for the Gavotte which if anything is mannered. The forward strings trouble again in the impressionist world of Autumnal Sketch, less striking to my ears than the near-contemporary Dreams featured on Alsop’s disc.

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David Nice