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Prokofiev: Symphonies No. 7 Op. 131 & No. 5 Op. 100

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 10, 1992
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony 7, Op. 131: Moderato
  2. Symphony 7, Op. 131: Allegretto
  3. Symphony 7, Op. 131: Andante espressivo
  4. Vivace
  5. Symphony 5, Op. 100: Andante
  6. Symphony 5, Op. 100: Allegro marcato
  7. Symphony 5, Op. 100: Adagio
  8. Symphony 5, Op. 100: Allegro giocoso

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 10, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Erato
  • ASIN: B000005E80
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,556 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Over the last several months, I have been listening to the cycle of Sergei Prokofiev symphonies recorded by Mstislav Rostropovich and L’Orchestre Nationale de France over the last several months and have found it overall very well done. Rostropovich’s characteristic conductorial approach involves careful attention to orchestral balances and timbres combined with a relaxed, but certainly not inert, emotional balance. This approach has yielded many very good moments and it does so again in this moving recording of Prokofiev’s late 7th symphony. But the consistency I’ve come to expect from these performers falls through, very unexpectedly, in this recording of the 5th symphony. This is particularly unfortunate as the 5th is probably the composer’s main statement as a symphonist and is a piece I think would have benefitted from successfully applying Rostropovich’s aesthetic.

Let’s start with the good. Beginning its life as a children’s symphony, the 7th (1952) is a wistful and nostalgic work, a real throwback to the era of the romantic symphony. Rostropovich, who is not a heart-on-your-sleeve maestro, veers from his approach for a performance that is full of yearning, sweet, with some wonderful evocations of Prokofiev’s timbral effects. With its well-known main theme, the opening Moderato is tender to the point of pathos; an old man walking in the woods beset by memories of a long-gone era. Unlike one of the other reviewers, I thought the leaping secondary theme in the Moderato was presented brilliantly, helped by this disc’s very strong sound engineering. This approach isn’t for everyone; I was at first put off by Rostropovich’s bordering-on-treacly interpretation, but I warmed to it and then after a time started to be downright moved.
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The 5th symphony starts out promising: the gentle whispering of the winds with a touch of the mystery about them--one of my favorite beginnings of a symphony. The tempo is just perfect (too many conductors rush this) here, but as the movement builds I find climaxes are underplayed, textures are thin, the great epic sections just too light. In short, I wanted to love this recording, for it to fill a hole in my collection, but no sale.

Rostropovich is a great cellist, and he gives his lines shape and a sort of soaring lyricism. Too bad he can't bring the same effect to the podium. These are okay performances of two of the great 20th century symphonies, but it sounds like the National Symphony Orchestra is on autopilot for much of the time. The first movement's big climax just before the recap, for example, is very underpowered. Ditto the snarling menace of the scherzo, with distant, whimpy snare drums and a bass drum that lacks bite. There's not much in the way of phrasing in, say, the slower central section, no quirky element of surprise and grotesque that's so much a part of Prokofiev.

The 7th lacks the sort of sardonicism in parts that has always made this a very interesting work of Prokofiev's--at once "simple" and "lyrical" and at the same time on a deeper level. Rostropovich doesn't *do* anything with the second theme in the first movement, and the menacing waltz, rather than being relentless, is played as a big, fat Viennese waltz--not *wrong* perhaps, but I was looking for more imagination, more subtext. (Listen to Rozhdestvensky to see what I mean.) True, as another reviewer points out, there is a lot of nuance and clarity, especially in the 7th and especially in the strings.
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I've heard many fine Prokofiev 5ths, but Rostropovich achieves some detailed articulation from the strings that other conductors miss. Take a listen to the cogs within cogs crazy mechanics of the coda in the last movement, to hear some whirring strings that you don't hear on any other version. If you love Prokofiev's 5th you won't be disappointed by this version.
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