Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

More Symphonies from Sergei


The Prokofiev Symphonies recordings keep coming. Here is the latest album in the fine BIS series from the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Litton, following very well-reviewed discs of the 6th Symphony in 2013 and the 5th in 2015. Again we have that superb, warm, alive sound from the BIS engineers, and an expansive, vibrant reading from Litton. I especially love the way the nostalgic, deceptively simple 7th comes across here. This music is full of charm, but somewhat brittle, due to the composer's distressed circumstances in 1952, the year before his death. There's sometimes a tendency to either lighten the mood too much - recapturing the innocence of the 1st Symphony is no longer possible - or to make too big a meal of things. Litton is safely in the middle here, but rather than being pallid it often sparkles. The 1947 version of the 4th Symphony, a re-working following the 6th Symphony, is nearly a new work. The Bergen Philharmonic shines in this music, especially the tragic, heroic first movement. Prokofiev always seems to come up with the perfect orchestral sounds for his material. Litton keeps dark moments from becoming turgid, and rays of optimism, as ill-fated as they are, seem real rather than sentimental. This is an unqualified success. Released on August 9, 2016.

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