PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 3; Scythian Suite; Autumn – Sao Paulo Sym. Orch./ Marin Alsop – Naxos audio-only Blu-ray

SERGEY PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 3; Scythian Suite; Autumn (Symphonic Sketch) – Sao Paulo Sym. Orch./ Marin Alsop – Naxos audio-only Blu-ray (96K/24-bit) DTS-HD MA 5.1 or stereo PCM – NBD0047, 61:25 [5/12/15] *****:

This is the fourth volume in Alsop’s cycle of all of the Prokofiev symphonies. The Third uses material from the Prokofiev opera The Fiery Angel, and Serge Koussevitsky called it “the best symphony since Tchaikovsky’s Sixth.” While not as well known as the composer’s Classical Symphony (No. 1) or his stirring Fifth, the work has been embraced by a number of conductors and its popularity has been raised recently. Composed in 1928, the symphony has four movements, of which the first is by far the longest and most developed.

The Scythian Suite, subtitled “Ala et Lolly”, is an unusually atonal and often very loud work, which was originally commissioned of the composer by Diagilev as a ballet but was found to be undanceable. It depicts the ancient Slavic peoples. The concert performance of the four-movement work has become a popular showpiece in the repetory of several international orchestras. Its quiet portions have an unwordly calm and there is an air of the ominous about much of the score. The work closes with “The Glorious Departure of Lolly” and has a dazzling conclusion.

Prokofiev’s early symphonic sketch Autumn (less than seven minutes length) is sandwiched between the two major works on the Blu-ray. It is generally dark-hued and not as exciting as most of the composer’s work, but was favorite of Prokofiev’s.  Surround sonics are superb on this 96/24 audio-only Blu-ray.

—John Sunier

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