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Friday, November 11, 2016

Prokofiev, Symphony No. 6, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop

Russia had prevailed over Germany when Prokofiev began composing his Sixth Symphony. His Fifth had, as much as Prokofiev could do that sort of thing, been a patriotic flourish anticipating a Russian victory during its darkest hours. It was a score celebrated then and still looked upon as one of his best. The Sixth did not contain much of the huzzahs Stalin expected to hear. It is much more gloomy, in fact. No wonder, since the carnage had been enormous, the battles brutal, and the aftermath not encouraging to one seeking artistic freedom. It never received the popularity in Russia or abroad as did the Fifth.

Yet the Symphony No. 6 (1945-47), as we can hear beautifully performed by Marin Alsop and the Sao Paulo Symphony as Naxos 8.573518, is one of Prokofiev's most characteristic works, touchingly bitter-sweet, filled with that thematic brilliance of line that was so originally Prokofiev's, stirring, melancholy, agitated and in the end filled with a lyric somberness especially poignant.

In the hands of Alsop and Sao Paulo you hear it as a major work, complete, ravishing.

An added bonus is Prokofiev's "Waltz Suite," a marvelous collation of his ambiguous portrayal of waltz
situations in dramatic denouements from "Cinderella," "War and Peace" and "Lermontov." It is Prokofiev at his best and Allsop finds just the right balance between the beautiful and the grotesque.

So this is a very worthy volume--Prokofiev in sublimity and despair, Allsop encouraging her orchestral colleagues to give performances that rival the very best. Outstanding!

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