22 January 2010

Revisiting Järvi’s Prokofiev II (i.e., out of order)

After more than a decade since I first owned the Järvi/RSNO set of the Prokofiev symphonies (an interval in which I have been better pleased with the Ozawa/Berliner Philharmoniker set), I’ve decided to revisit the crime scene, starting with disc 1 . . . .

On the whole, Järvi’s Classical here is very good; there are four or five brief moments where, underneath the rapid textures, the nervous energy is paramount, but the assurance of a solid beat feels rather up for grabs. Nothing approaching ‘fatal’, though as a result I am still apt to prefer both Ozawa (a match in elegance, and the band are always tight) and Ančerl (even speedier and more nervous, and always tight, nothwithstanding).

The Fourth and I are continuing rather a curious dance. I am warming to it more and more with each hearing (the two several versions, and different recordings), but the deal is somehow not quite sealing. [And in the meanwhile, I have gotten to know the source ballet, L’enfant prodigue, which is inarguably one of Prokofiev’s masterworks.] In last night’s listen, I felt that I liked the Opus 112 first movement the best I ever have, and so applause to Järvi. The last movement here, though, doesn’t have the focus which I find so signally refreshing in the Ozawa set. To repeat a thought, the middle movements are musically lovely; and yet the whole enchilada falls only just short of winning me over, for whatever reason.

Overall, I am continuing of the opinion that the Second is a stunning achievement; and that, while the Third and Fourth are fine successes in their way, it is the Fifth with which Prokofiev incontestably finds his symphonic footing again — in some way(s), the Fifth sounds in all its parts as a symphony, in some way that I am not perceiving in either the Third or Fourth.

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