Prokofiev’s rarely performed Third Symphony (Mackerras performed it with the Sydney Symphony in 1977) is the symphonic equivalent of Almodóvar’s Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown. I enjoyed it more than I expected to. 

Based on ideas from his opera The Fiery Angel, about religious hysteria, it’s nowhere near as maniacal as the Second Symphony but the frenzy is still just beneath the surface. It’s a tour de force the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra carry off with aplomb under their Ukrainian chief Kirill Karabits, illustrating the galvanic effect he’s having in that haven of gentility on England’s South Coast. 

The Seventh Symphony (Prokofiev’s swansong) Karabits describes as “tragic”. I think his conducting is more convincing than his commentary, as the work was composed for young audiences! It’s cool, enigmatic, almost elegant in parts, “late night” Prokofiev, if you like, occupying the same sound world as Cinderella. His reading is certainly darker than either André Previn’s 1970s LSO one, or Nicolai Malko’s pioneering Philharmonia recording made a few years after the composer’s death in 1953. Karabits solves the “problem” of the alternative endings by recording both: the original was a subdued “leave taking” but the ever vigilant “authorities” demanded something more upbeat in line with “Socialist Realism”. All highly recommended.

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