Customer Reviews: Prokofiev: Classical Symphony / Bizet: Symphony in C / Britten: Simple Symphony
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on December 27, 2012
When I first heard this recording on the car radio I had to pull over. I have been familiar with the Prokofiev First for more than sixty [sic.] years and during those years it has enjoyed several outstanding performances. Now you can add this one to the list.
It is taken at an astonishing slow tempo, but the impression it makes is a revelation of great beauty! The playing, as always with this ensemble, is as near to perfect as you will find anywhere and the sound, marked by an uncanny clarity, is extremely fine. I bought my copy from a company that specializes in pressing discs that have gone off the market.
The Bizet and Britten on the disc are also very well done.
If you love the Prokofiev, or know someone just starting to listen to music, it is in my opinion a 'must have.'
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The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performs with the cohesion of a string quartet; the lack of a conductor somehow results in internal communication that results in performances that are balanced, insightful, and gleamingly beautiful.

A very fine programming idea, one of including three symphonies that quote classical modes, works extremely well. The Prokofiev 'Classical Symphony' is played with brisk tempi, witty strains, and smooth 'passion' where each is indicated. The performance of Britten's string symphony composed when Britten was but twenty years old is anything but a Simple Symphony as the title suggests. This is a complex work based on songs of Britten's youth remembered with tenderness but written with advanced techniques, many of which suggest just how great a composer he would become. Orpheus performs with utter commitment and a lush string sound.

If the Bizet is the weakest of these three it is more because of the quality of writing than the quality of performance. It simply is not in the same category as the others, but again Orpheus makes if sound finer than any other recording. This is one of those 'must own' CDs for every music lover's library.

Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 05
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on May 28, 2016
This recording may well be one of a kind, unique, the writings of three youthful widely respected classical music composers, from three different eras and ranging in age from a few days past seventeen, twenty and barely twenty-five, gathered together on one disc. Two had long successful musical composition careers and the youngest of the three, one who died before his time is revered for what he did before his death albeit with most of his critical respect occurring after his passing. And this one wrote one of the most popular and most continually performed of all grand operas, probably more popular than any single composition of the other two, though he never knew of this success. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performs without the use of a conductor and is uniformly respected. Here, although different, each of these compositions receives the excellent performance technique of this ensemble. Someone's masterful imagination is responsible for this assemblage.
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VINE VOICEon September 21, 2000
Orpheus makes Prokofiev's First sound new in comparison to those by large symphony orchestras (Orpheus is a chamber orchestra). Their smaller format suits it paritucarly well, as precision, rather than power, brings out the full beauty in this work. The same can be said for both the Bizet and Britten works. Each is a shorter symphony that lends itself best to Orpheus' style of playing.
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on January 28, 2015
Orpheus pours everything they have into these performances. The result is stunning. Such articulation, such energy, such cohesiveness, such precision! If these works are missing from your collection, or if you've dismissed them, do yourself a favor pick this up.
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VINE VOICEon March 9, 2011
I have owned this recording for several years and frequently play it to generally hear the Prokofiev Classical Symphony. The other works are enjoyable but it's the Classical Symphony that I enjoy the most.

The performances of all three are done crisply and cleanly with rather extraordinary string sound. Having played cello for many years I have knowledge of how live strings should sound and this recording comes much closer than most to capturing the special sound that strings have in a live performance; that alone awakens memories.

I find this recording refreshing from that perspective alone, the beauty of the music and the quality of the performance are like icing on the cake. As you may guess, I'm very interested in quality music reproduction and place value on both the quality of the performance as well as the quality of the recording; this 1987 recording excels in both categories.

The CD includes a booklet which has a picture of the 24 youthful members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The picture shows the musicians with their instruments and seems to include flutes, oboe, clarinets, bassoons, violins, violas, cellos, and string bass.

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, based in New York City, continues to perform and make a name for itself following the philosophy of playing with no conductor in the spirit of the small string ensemble and even rotating positions of leadership. If you put orpheusnyc into your browser and check out "About" you will find an interesting photo of the ensemble it the time they recorded this disc.

If you enjoy string sound well recorded with the string ensemble performing beautifully you'll find this CD an enjoyable addition to your library.
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on September 11, 2013
These are delightful interpretations, but there are other recordings of each piece deserving a listen and could belong in your collection. Typical and consistent with Orpheus, there is precise ensemble, clean (if a bit dry) recordings from their years with DG, fully adequate interpretation and obviously well rehearsed. That and still, the overall phrasing in the Prokofiev "Classical" comes up a bit short-changed. For example, Previn (Philips/LA Phil) offers a "Classical" where the voice, phrasing and often aggressively articulating violins bring more definition, note value, detail and voice. By comparison, while I'll still call Orpheus 'delightful', the ear notices the short-changing of key musical themes in the Prokofiev via Orpheus.
The Bizet fares quite well here in a Chamber ensemble performance, yet larger scale orchestral performances abound. Nothing substantial is gained or lossed in either approach.
Next to Benjamin Britten conducting his own works, most other performances fall just a tad short. Orpheus gives a nice performance. Another disc of the Britten, featuring a wide dynamic range, lush string tone, fully spatial instrumental placement with urging musical lyrics is an older NIMBUS recording, Well defined strings, beautifully judged tempos (gorgeous Sarabande) and brilliant detail could tip the scales in favor of the English Symphony as far as Britten's Simple Symphony are concerned.
It would be churlish though not to endorse the Orpheus disc given the delightful, but not "first choice" performances. The 65 minute CD is generous and well filled.
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on December 2, 2013
This is just about the best Prokofiev "Classical Symphony" you'll hear on disc. I'd heard a number of big band versions from Previn and quite a few other conductors. None really approach the engaging charm and buoyancy of this reading, and the sound quality is first rate. The Britten comes off well too, but the Bizet perhaps somehow loses a little of the sense of spontaneity to be found in the other two works here, and there are better recordings of it. But 5 stars here if only for the Prokofiev.
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on November 1, 2012
Whoever decided to put these three works on one disc is a marketing genius. Different in origin but so similar in character, they belong together as one tight trio of small scale masterpieces. And it's hard to think of performances that outdo them. There isn't a better version of the Britten that I've heard that comes to mind. For the Bizet, there is Beecham's classic rendition, and I've also enjoyed Bernstein's NYPO recording of it as well. As for the Prokofiev, Bernstein has always scored well with me with respect to it as well. Still, when you combine quality of performance with convenience, this one disc gives you the best of all possible worlds. It's hard to outdo two birds with one stone, but this album nets you three. Highly recommended.
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HALL OF FAMEon May 5, 2004
Orpheus, perhaps America's premier chamber ensemble, offers fresh, invigorating interpretations of Prokofiev's 1st Symphony, Britten's Simple Symphony and Bizet's Symphony, making a persuasive case pointing to the stylistic links which are common to all three works. All three can be seen as later examinations of traditional Classical music in the mode of Haydn, Mozart and the young Beethoven. Orpheus' conductor-less performances are unquestionably superb. This is yet another in the fine series of CDs which Orpheus recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in the late 1980's into early 1990's.
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