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Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5, The Year 1941

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 26, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Written in 1944, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is one of his greatest and most complete symphonic statements. At its premi+¨re he himself called it "a symphony of the grandeur of the human spirit". The first movement couples considerable strength with unexpected yet highly characteristic twists of melody. After a violent scherzo followed by a slow movement of sustained lyricism, with a fiercely dramatic middle section, the finale blazes with barely suppressed passion. The Year 1941 is another wartime work, a symphonic suite written in response to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This is the first volume of a complete cycle of the Prokofiev Symphonies with the OSESP and Marin Alsop, the orchestra's newly appointed Principal Conductor.Marin Alsop made history with her appointment as the 12th Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. With her inaugural concerts in September 2007, she became the first woman to head a major American orchestra. Her appointment as Principal Conductor of the S+£o Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP), starting in 2012, marks another historic appointment for her. Having released more than fifty CDs, OSESP has become an inseparable part of S+£o Paulo and Brazilian culture, promoting deep cultural and social transformations. In 2008 Gramophone magazine included OSESP in a list of three emerging orchestras to which attention should be paid.

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Sao Paulo State Symphony
  • Conductor: Alsop
  • Composer: Prokofiev
  • Audio CD (June 26, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B007WB5CQC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,410 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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If Naxos has become my favorite label (I have a whole wall full of their stuff) is simply because they have always been creative and, with time, they keep getting better and better.

You might think the Sao Paulo Symphony orchestra (OSESP) is a "third-world" orchestra (tsk, tsk, some prejudice there?). As demonstrated in other recordings (e.g., BIS) they are simply fabulous (through recordings, Mexican, Venezuelan and Brazilian orchestras have demonstrated their quality many times during the last decades).

Now, to be specific: if you did not hear about Prokofiev's Op 90 (The Year 1941) is probably because the work is utterly UNmemorable. Composed when he and others were evacuated to the Caucasus, it was premiered in 1943 with failing notices. Still, it is a very compelling opening piece on this program given the "warring" atmosphere of both works.

The 5th symphony is a masterpiece (have you noticed how many 5th symphonies are truly masterful?) and a memorable work; therefore, there is lot of competition around. But this recording can share place with the top. Not only are the interpretation and playing superb, the sound is (again) extraordinary. Listen to the last two minutes of the first movement and hold on to your seat!

Which brings me to Marin Alsop. Not only has she demonstrated admirable versatility but she has become a first class conductor, well respected througout the world. Deservedly so. I bought this based on the reputation amassed by these interpreters, my love for the 5th and the curiosity on how this team works.
It works marvellously and NAXOS should be congratulated.

I hope there are more recodings of Alsop and the OSESP in the can. How about some Brazlian under-recorded repertoire? Obrigado!
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This version of Symphony #5 is good but not amazing or overwhelming. Before I bought this album, the reviews seemed to suggest that this version would open up new vistas on the Symphony. It doesn't. It is a good version and Marin Alsop does a good job. Great sound as usual from Naxos. Just not eye-opening as many reviews have tended to suggest.
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Almost every classical listener who has been paying attention knows of the high quality work of conductor Marin Alsop. I have had the good fortune to see and hear Marin live and she really is a gifted conductor with a particular talent for the music of the twentieth century to the present. Alsop is the music director of the Baltimore Symphony and has already begun to steer that ensemble into the ranks of one of America's finest. This very satisfying new recording of two of Prokofiev's best scores provides some grand listening moments but with a couple of surprises. First of all, Marin Alsop is also the newly appointed principal conductor of the present Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra and they play very well indeed under her direction. I do not think I have heard the OSESP ever before and this is certainly a very impressive introduction. The music itself is, of course, grand in every way but the "surprise" here is the "Symphonic Suite, op. 90, 'The Year 1941'" This pro-Russian patriotic suite was intended to extol the Russian forces in their holding back of the Germans at the western boundary; the Russian Front. Ironically, everyone from Stalin to Myaskovsky to Shostakovich had considered it a fairly weak score and not really befitting of the events it sought to laud. However, it is still vintage and characteristic Prokofiev and full of wonderfully full moments. Prokofiev later used the score for a soundtrack to a propaganda film (of sorts), "Partisans in the Ukrainian Steppes" The "Symphony #5" is a much better known score and most count it among the composers finest works. This recording fares quite well. The second movement, allegro marcato, and the third, adagio, are particularly strong under Alsop's baton.Read more ›
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It was a happy choice for Marin Alsp and the Sao Paolo SO to get together - she brought an international reputation to Brazil's best orchestra, and we get the benefit of hearing an ensemble of quality that was previously overlooked. There are no quibbles about how well the orchestra plays on their new Prokofiev CD, and Naxos's recorded sound is good enough to compete with almost anyone's. As a bargain Prokofiev symphony cycle, this one should fit the bill when it concludes.

But the Prokofiev Fifth has a long track record on disc, and some collectors may feel that owning Koussevitzky, Bernstein, and Karajan, to name three notable examples, fills out all we need to hear. Among the Russian conductors, who have made Prokofiev as popular on concert programs as Mendelssohn (I consulted a catalog of 4,200 broadcast concerts from the U.S. and Europe), it's a surprise that Gergiev's two accounts - one with the LSO, the other with the Mariinsky Orch. - are somewhat stolid, but to compensate, there's a magnificent recording by Vladimir Jurowski that's now my first choice.

In this company, Alsop seems polished but underpowered, unwilling to really dig into the score for the excitement and drama it contains. There have been similarly civilized Fifths in the past, especially Szell's, often cited as a classic but too contained even by comparison with non-Russians like Simon Rattle and James Levine, two others who excel in this music. Alsop takes a balletic view, reminding us that the symphony owes a great deal to the idiom of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and her approach yields some lovely moments in the second and third movements. For me, these aren't enough to outweigh the passages of routine music-making.
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