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Prokofiev: Symphony No 5, Peter & The Wolf / Ormandy

Release Date: 01/18/2008 
Label:  Rca Victor Red Seal Catalog #: 38295  
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  David Bowie
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

*** This title is a reissue of a Japanese release with liner notes in Japanese. ***

R E V I E W S:

This is a slower, weightier Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 than the one Eugene Ormandy recorded for CBS in 1961. His 1972 recording (for RCA) also features increased intensity and greater emphasis on color and ensemble clarity. So many details register with exceptional clarity: piano chords at the beginning of the first movement, the tam-tam at the end of same, the string tremolos in the adagio. The Philadelphia Orchestra plays sumptuously throughout, with robust tone and lively articulation--so much so that the slow tempos really don't matter, save for the adagio, which sounds almost lifeless before the big
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Of course, Ormandy's not alone in his more measured approach; you can find similar tempos on the younger Bernstein's first recording with the New York Philharmonic, and on the much younger Yoel Levi's rendition with the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc. Still, Prokofiev's Fifth really catches fire when infused with the type of vitality and zest that Neeme Järvi and Herbert von Karajan bring to it.

David Bowie's telling of Peter and the Wolf may surprise listeners expecting a "rock star" interpretation. Actually, his gentle reading is in the tradition of British storytelling, strong on elocution as well as characterization. It's all quite charming, especially when supported by Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra's richly colorful playing. The recordings (remastered by RCA Japan) feature nice depth and spaciousness, but as often with these productions there's too much treble emphasis. Nonetheless, this remains a highly desirable item for Ormandy fans, and it's now widely available thanks to Arkivmusic.com's "on-demand" service.

--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com

The Prokofiev Fifth is one of those conductor-proof pieces; this 1975 version, at over 49 minutes, lacks the propulsion of the early-stereo 1957 Columbia version, which is a full five minutes faster. Still, the orchestral playing is brilliant, and the performance, if it lacks the frisson of the earlier one, is a joy to hear.

Peter and the Wolf was recorded in 1977; it is noteworthy, of course, for the participation of British rocker David Bowie—one wonders whether Ormandy had any idea who he was. In fact, Bowie overdubbed his part in New York a month after the orchestra had recorded the score. I don’t know whether he ever actually performed the work with the orchestra. In any event, I remember that contemporary reviewers were surprised that he played it straight, and he gives a perfectly acceptable account of the narrative, even though Peter and the Wolf never sounds right to me with anyone other than Cyril Ritchard reading the text.

-- Richard A. Kaplan, Fanfare
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in B flat major, Op. 100 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1975 
Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  David Bowie (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1977 

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