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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Prokofiev on a grand scale.
Rudolf Barshai (b. 1924) died in Switzerland on 2 November 2010. While well enough known for championing Russian music of the twentieth century (including Lokshin in some depth) he also addressed with great distinction Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Bach and Tippett as his various commercial recordings attest.
It's probably my loss that I never thought of the Philharmonia as a natural vehicle for Russian music. The LSO with Ahronovich, Rozhdestvensky and Previn, time after time, delivered completely idiomatic recordings of Russian nationalist repertoire. Then again the RPO also had its great strengths especially in the Temirkanov RCA Tchaikovsky recordings (1990s). In fairness Markevitch
made an excellent Tchaikovsky symphony and tone poem cycle in the 1960s with the LSO under Philips’ aegis and that is soon to emerge in reissue by Newton Classics – watch this space.
Barshai's 1989 London collaboration with the Philharmonia is unequivocally good with some tasty rasping pages from the brass and some chilly and sardonically buffeting work in the Allegro Marcato second movement. The icily glowing strings in the Adagio are redolent of Romeo and Juliet and there’s a romping and percussive Shostakovichian emphasis and acidity in the finale. Barshai who has an outstanding Shostakovich symphony cycle on Brilliant Classics really brings out the Shostakovich elements in that last movement. The Barshai Classical is a big band version yet light on its toes and with plenty of oomph. I still like the CFP Malko version but this is good and revels in the advantages of broad spectrum sound and full cream playing.
The notes are by Jeffrey Davis (with thanks to Peter Davis) who picked up the Olympic torch from the late Per Skans for the completion by Alto of the Svetlanov-Olympia series of Miaskovsky symphonies.
This is Prokofiev on a grand scale.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Excellent Prokofiev by Barshai April 9, 2015
By owen ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews
"Prokofiev's First is a melodic, lite, youthful work which would have been a good introductory piece but the producer(s) unaccountably put it last. Prokofiev thought of the Fifth as the culmination of ''a great period of my work.'' Indeed, many think it is his finest symphony. The Fifth did not have a program but Prokofiev stated it was music ''glorifying the human spirit...praising the free and happy man.'' This could be code for the glorified Soviet Man-- a sop to the apparatchiks acting as critic-censors. Written in the final days of WWII it is easy to ascribe a program expressing sorrow for the millions killed (the adagio) the trauma of battle and the approaching victory. On Jan. 15, '45 Prokofiev conducted the premiere of the Fifth in Moscow. As he raised his baton to start, a fussilade of cannon fire errupted in the distance: a celebration of the Red Army crossing the Vistula River. As evidenced in this CD, Barshai's credentials are first-rate for conducting Russian compositions. This is a first rate performance and the recording is also excellent. I heartily recommend this disc"