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CD Review

Serge Prokofieff

  • Symphony #5
  • Symphony #6 (US première)
USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Pristine Audio PASC161 (

I started pestering Ed Johnson for a release of these two works several years ago. He kept putting me off because of copyright issues. I was convinced this would sell and not only members of the society would want a listen. I'd finally persuaded him when Memories issued the material last year on a transfer so amateur it was embarrassing. Now Pristine has come to the rescue like some Lone Ranger and I encourage all of my readers to get this disc in order to prove I was right.

The orchestra in symphony #5 (recorded 1958) is damn good and the energy Stokowski pulls from them sounds like it comes from someone younger than 74…it's amazing…at the end I could imagine the audience jumping to its feet and giving an ovation lasting several minutes. Solos are well caught and the tam-tam in the first movement is clearly there. There are moments that remind me of The Twilight Zone.

The 6th comes from tapes that Ed Johnson owns and was recorded in 1949. The difference between what you hear here and the previous incarnation is sufficient to warrant purchasing this disc even if it duplicates your collection because this is so much better that it is a different recording. Here you can feel the commitment and excitement of the orchestra that is performing this for the first time in this country. The dynamic range of the sound is simply gorgeous. There is a poignancy here that I'm hearing for the first time.

These are the best performances I've ever heard of these two symphonies. Stokowski captures a Russian feel to the music that seems to elude Karajan, whose recording has been, for some reason, reckoned one of the best. I am so glad that Pristine Audio has issued this disc. It is vastly superior to the Memories issue from a few months ago.

Copyright © 2009, Robert Stumpf II