Before the live performance of Prokofiev’s Second Symphony, Kirill Karabits warned the audience of an “ear-lashing”. Bearing in mind the disproportionate number of retired majors and active Tory matrons among the Bournemouth Symphony’s subscriber base, I suppose it was wise.
Personally, I’d put the first movement’s shock factor (and it’s really only the first movement which has that motoric Age of Steel quality) at around that of The Rite of Spring. It won’t blow your mind (or your speakers). Despite the obvious commitment of Karabits and his players, I didn’t find the work particularly interesting. But what an incredible advance between this and its immediate symphonic predecessor! The Classical Symphony (No 1) had some lovely moments, especially in the second movement but here, it’s a case of the excellent being the enemy of the merely very good. I still have the mellifluous felicities of the London Symphony’s Sydney performance under Gergiev last November lingering in my ears.
What was interesting was the Sinfonietta, an unjustly neglected work which I’ve encountered only as a fill-up to a late ‘70s recording of Ivan the Terrible. It demonstrates that when Prokofiev set out to charm, he was absolutely beguiling! The other work on this well filled CD is Autumnal Sketch – a rather chilly evocation of the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Sound is occasionally a bit swimmy.