London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev conducting
Review by: Robert Zierolf
CSO audiences should fill Music Hall in February when Valery Gergiev makes
his Cincinnati debut with an all-Russian program. No one today is conducting
Russian music with such insight.
In addition to this complete set of symphonies, I highly recommend his other
Phillips recordings of Prokofiev's music. For a number of reasons, this
one is preferable even to Neemi Järvi's excellent set on Chandos.
Gergiev's legendary demands on musicians are evident, especially in the
last movement of Symphony No. 1 ("Classical"), where the tempo is
simply too fast for fingers and bows. (These are live recordings, so perhaps
the excitement of the moment took over.)
Character and mood are of primary importance in Prokofiev's seven symphonies.
Sarcasm in scherzos, heroicism in the final movement of the Fifth,
bittersweet melodies in slow movements-all are captured to near perfection
by the London Symphony Orchestra. Of the more subtle features, Prokofiev's
enormous ego and political entanglements might be evident to those familiar
with his two (!) autobiographies, but one can also listen profitably without
such knowledge, such is the beauty of this body of work. Of particular interest
is inclusion of both versions (1930/1947) of Symphony No. 4, the latter
about a third longer than the original. You probably own Nos. 1 and
This set will not disappoint (the first three movements of No. 1 are
excellent), and there is much substance in the other five if you don't
Zierolf is Professor of Music Theory and
History and Division head of Composition,
Musicology, and Theory at the College-Conservatory
of Music, University of Cincinnati. He is
also a freelance writer on classical music.