Prokofiev: Symphonies 5 & 7 / Tennstedt, Bavarian Radio So
It may be even more of an achievement that this performance of the Seventh convinces us (at least temporarily) that the work also is a first-rate symphony. Like Beethoven's Eighth, it has been criticized for being regressive because it turns back from the composer's more radical prior utterances. There is an undeniable sense of weakness and resignation in the music, but Tennstedt's performance suggests that's because Prokofiev, beseiged by illness and commissars, was feeling that way. Tennstedt reminds us that the piece is in C-sharp minor for a reason; beneath the surface innocence this conductor, himself an escapee from the same repression as the composer, suggests this positive message and tame language are imposed, and that the deeper sadness is the true message. Fittingly, Tennstedt respects Prokofiev's wishes and uses the original ending, dying out gently, instead of the tacked-on major-key "Socialist optimist" conclusion.
The Bavarian Radio engineers turn in first-rate work. The liner notes are silent as to whether the 1977 tapes came from live concerts, but I detected the faint rustle of an audience. Profil, however, made a gross error in authoring the CD: the Fifth symphony's fourth movement starts one minute and five seconds before the third track ends. Listeners going straight to the fourth track will hear what purports to be the fourth movement, but without its slow introduction. Since this error has no audible effect when the symphony is played straight through, it doesn't affect the "artistic merit" score. Although getting Kuchar's budget set from Naxos is the best way to buy any Prokofiev symphony, there is much value in this uniquely joyful approach to the Fifth, and you really should hear the Seventh without the loud ending. [6/29/2005]
--Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: PH05003
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor: Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra