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Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Symphony No 5

Release Date: 01/29/2008 
Label:  Telarc   Catalog #: 80683   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5. Lieutenant Kijé: Suite Paavo Järvi, cond; Cincinnati SO TELARC 60683 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 64:25)

Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony stands out like a giant in 20th-century music. Each movement, so carefully constructed and imbued with the composer’s absolutely highest standards of melody and rhythmic awareness, and anchored with one of the most enthralling and thrillingly gorgeous slow movements in all Read more of music. There have been many recordings of this work due to its continuous popularity, and the work does countenance a wide variety of interpretations.

Leonard Bernstein was one of the best, wringing out the intensity that is miraculously present in nearly every bar of every movement. Ormandy also had the measure of the work, preferring to let what he believed were the intrinsic beauties of the piece speak for themselves, if such a thing is possible. I heard Previn with the LSO at their peak in 1976 playing with an almost demonic abandon, something that he failed to capture in his 1974 recording, but it was close. And my favorite, a mono recording of Dmitri Mitropoulos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony (Orfeo) in 1954 may be the finest on disc. Of course, I may also buck critical consensus by expressing a particular delight for Szell’s Columbia issue, though I might have lost friends by mentioning it.

But the point is that there have been relatively few really terrific recordings of this work, despite the plethora of releases. Enter Paavo Järvi and his suave Cincinnati Symphony. My first questions were whether these folks had the needed acerbic tendencies in interpretative ability to make a reasoned go at this most testy of beauties, truly Beauty and the Beast incarnate in one work if ever there was one. And Järvi does have a tendency to smooth out the wrinkles in most everything he conducts—maybe it’s the natural sound of his orchestra that leads one to certain interpretative nuances. But because of this desire to make rough places plain, I feel like the opening measures are not quite as assertive as they should be, and the entire movement seems tentative until towards the end. But then, with the advent of the second movement Allegro marcato, things really start to come alive. The playing is so assured and second nature and the tonal qualities of this orchestra shine through like beams of sunlight cutting through clouds on an overcast day.

The Adagio is a very measured 12:28, and to me seems just about perfect. So often this movement is taken much too fast and ends up losing the lushness of the strings and impact of the climaxes. Without a lingering, cautious measured tour through this movement the final piece loses much of its manic cohesiveness. Here the Cincinnatians really put the pedal to the metal, and the climax is about as thrilling as I have heard on disc.

Lieutenant Kijé has fared much better on CD generally speaking, though it is hard not to think of Ormandy and especially Reiner when the title comes to mind. I cannot claim that Järvi betters either one of those—in fact, I don’t think he does. But as a companion for an already attractive program it fits very well, and many will be satisfied with it as an only recording. Of course, one of the really special things about this release has to do with Telarc’s marvelous DSD surround sound, and the addition of the other three speakers adds a delightful and ravishing edge to the experience. Regular stereo is not bad at all either, but that alone moves this music more into the field of its competitors, many of which also enjoy fine stereo sound. This is overall a very fine release that will get a lot of play by me, perhaps even a first choice much of the time, and I’ll bet that it might occupy that position for you too.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in B flat major, Op. 100 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USSR 
Venue:  Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio 
Length: 43 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio (03/18/2007 - 03/19/2007) 
Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Paris, France 
Venue:  Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio 
Length: 20 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio (03/18/2007 - 03/19/2007) 

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