Thursday 8 October 2015

Prokofiev symphonies from Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Prokofiev symphonies nos. 4 & 5, Kirill Karabits - Onyx
Prokofiev symphonies nos. 4 & 5; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirll Karabits; Onyx
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 23 2015
Star rating: 5.0

The rarely performed original version of Prokofiev's fourth symphony and his wartime fifth continue this fine cycle from Bournemouth

This new disc of Prokofiev symphonies is a further instalment in Kirill Karabits' fine Prokofiev cycle with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, of which Karabits is the musical director, on Onyx Classics. This latest disc includes Symphony No. 4 and the original version of Symphony No. 4, plus the early orchestral piece Dreams.

The disc opens with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 which he completed in 1944, around 14 years after finishing his previous symphony. Written in Soviet Russia, the new work had no explicit reference to the war and the composer said that it celebrated the human spirit. The opening Andante starts from nothing, the music is richly lyrical and the strings play with a lovely tone making the music sing. The Allegro marcato starts with a crisp, perky introduction leading to a Prokofievian scherzo with music which could have come straight out of Romeo and Juliet as things relax a little we still get some lovely flashes of wit. In the Adagio the quiet, singing string lines create a lovely transparent texture, which develops into something rather questioning with darker undercurrents, building to climax which quickly recedes. The Allegro giocoso finale starts out hardly finale-like at all with a quiet, intense section with transparent textures, but then with a flash of perky wit we are off and the performance puts a real smile on your face. The playing is of real wit, with a fine combination of accuracy and character. But despite all this, there is an interestingly anxious undercurrent to the music.

Kirill Karabits - credit Sasha Gusov
Kirill Karabits - credit Sasha Gusov
Prokofiev's Symphony No. 4 is based on material from his ballet L'Enfant Prodigue (The Prodigal Son) which he wrote for Diaghilev in 1928/29. The symphony uses material from the ballet and is a full blown symphony rather than a suite, but its material and structure can sometimes give it the feel of a developed symphonic suite and Prokofiev would in fact subject the work to a wholesale revision in 1947 effectively creating a new work. It is the revision which is more commonly done on disc so this recording of the original 1930 version is very welcome, particularly in such a finely sympathetic performance.

The opening movement starts with a lovely lyrical Andante, the instrumental textures again transparent, which leads to a really busy and rather intense Allegro, with some moments of real drama as Prokofiev subjects the material from the ballet to sonata-form development. The Andante tranquillo is lyric but uneasy and quietly unsettled with a bleakness to the material. The movement flows between moods and Karabits really keeps the intensity up as the movement flows. The elegantly graceful Moderato quasi allegro has some lovely long lines and is really rather poignant. Finally the brisk and busy Allegro risoluto with its wonderfully insouciant clarinet and perky violins. For all this, the movement does get rather intense and I have to confess that I found the ending a bit of a sudden bump.

Dreams, Op.6 is one of Prokofiev's earliest orchestral works, dating from 1910. A finely crafted and very evocative piece, rather stronger in construction that its title might suggest. It is fascinating to be able to hear the really early composer and recognise his voice.

There is a sense of lovely detail in these performances but also the feeling that Karabits brings a sense of structure and flow to the music too. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are on terrific form for Karabits, bringing a great sense of crisp accuracy and singing tone to the music. This disc is highly recommendable, as is the whole series.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) - Symphony No. 5 in B flat op.100 (1944)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) - Symphony No.4 in C op. 47 (1930)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) - Dreams Op.6 (1910)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Karabits
Recorded 27 June, 2-3 November 2014, 8 April 2015 at The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset
ONYX 4147 1CD [77.28]
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