Prokofiev: Symphony No 6 in E flat minor, Op 111; Waltz Suite, Op 110

Reviewed on Thu 25 Aug, 2016

Drawing some notably spruce playing from her eager Brazilian band, Marin Alsop steers a refreshingly lithe and consistently purposeful course through Prokofiev's uncompromising Sixth Symphony (composed in the aftermath of World War II).

We have reached the penultimate instalment in Marin Alsop's Prokofiev symphony cycle for Naxos. Drawing some notably spruce playing from her eager Brazilian band, Alsop steers a refreshingly lithe and consistently purposeful course through the uncompromising Sixth (composed in the aftermath of World War II). If the results are less gloweringly intense than some may like (you'll encounter little of that bare-faced anguish that marks out, say, Erich Leinsdorf's blistering mid-60s Boston SO recording for RCA), there's a compensating intelligence, poise and acumen about this music-making, allied to a rhythmic snap and often startling transparency of texture (especially in the lower woodwind and brass), that have already lured me back for more. The attractive Waltz Suite was completed in the same year (1947) as the symphony and bears an adjacent opus number to it. There are six numbers in all, three from the ballet Cinderella, two from the opera War and Peace and one from an abandoned score for the film Lermontov (Prokofiev had fallen out with its director, Albert Gendelstein). Alsop and her impressively polished São Paulo colleagues afford it suitably slinky treatment. Throw in some top-notch production values and Naxos's comparatively modest asking-price, and it should by now be clear that this is a coupling well worth seeking out.
–Andrew Achenbach