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Noseda Conducts Prokofiev

03-08-2023 | By Stephen Francis Vasta | Issue 126

PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25 ("Classical"). London Sympbhony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda. LSO Live LSO0363 (download only). TT: 14.01. Downloads: eclassical.com (FLAC 24-bit or 16-bit, mp3) lsolive.lso.co.uk (FLAC, mp3); prestomusic.com (mp3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC); qobuz.com (24-bit, 192.0 kHz)

Prokofiev's first symphony is an affectionate homage to, or sendup of, the Classical style (whence the subtitle), and should be played with some reference to that style. Increasingly, however, conductors with virtuoso orchestras have played its outer movements for sheer bravura. So it's good to hear Gianandrea Noseda's more moderate approach to the first movementonly marked Allegro, after allin this concert recording; it reminded me of a less "stuck" counterpart to the old Sargent version (RCA and then Decca). The woodwinds have time to articulate their solo lines with point and even delicacy; at the peak of the development, the syncopations that propel the music forward register more strongly than most. The tempo is quick enough, to be sure, but the firmly grounded, weighted sonority makes this sound like a real symphony, not a flashy throwaway.

After this, the second movement flows at the faster end of Larghetto, somewhat reversing the normal tempo relationship with the sturdy first movement; but this allows Noseda to shape the movement in a single long linemost impressive. The violins gently soar as they introduce the theme, and Noseda keeps the sixteenth notes in the "B" section under control.

Given the conductor's forthright treatment of the first two movements, I was surprised by his mild agogics in the Gavotte's upbeats: they don't hurt anything, but why? Just play the music, for heaven's sake. I did appreciate the gentle relaxation into the closing cadence, however, and the bustling, firmly controlled Finale—marked Molto vivace—offers plenty of clear detail.

Save for a single small violin scrape on one of the first movement's "upward" grace notes, the LSO is in fine form, and the recording is vivid and full-bodied. At the moment, this is only available as a download, but, with these things, one never knows: Anne Akiko Meyers's Mysterium program (Avie), originally released as download-only, will apparently be issued on a (short) CD as well.