There is nothing unusual about a composer returning to a major work in order to make revisions, but among such works Sergei Prokofiev's Fourth Symphony is a unique case in that it exists in two such different versions that the composer considered them quite separate works and gave each its own opus number. Composed in 1929–30, the first version, Op. 47, met with lukewarm response at its Boston and European premières as well as at performances given before Soviet audiences following Prokofiev's final return to Russia in 1936. In 1947 Prokofiev decided to return to the symphony, producing not so much a revision as a complete reworking of the original material. The differences between the versions are too many to detail, but the main point is that the 1947 version, given the opus number 112, is a much bigger and more ambitious score. Some four years later Prokofiev began work on what would become his last major work, Symphony No. 7 in C sharp minor. The composer announced that he aimed at simplicity and was writing ‘a symphony for children’, a statement that was possibly influenced by the fact that he in 1948 had been accused for ‘formalism’ by the Soviet authorities. In any case, there is nothing childish – or simple – about the work. After the first performance, Prokofiev was persuaded into change the ending, adding a more up-beat and optimistic twenty-bar alternative to the original coda. Both endings are included on the present recording, giving listeners the opportunity to judge the very different effect each makes. The disc is the third instalment in a Prokofiev cycle from Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, with previous discs receiving warm acclaim from, for instance, Fanfare (‘One of the best performances of the Fifth that I have ever heard…’) and the German website Klassik-Heute, which selected the recording of Symphony No. 6 as one of its recommended releases.
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