Following the successful publication on Cappriccio of all Shostakovich’s symphonies on CD, Dmitrij Kitajenko once again collaborates with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln to perform the complete recording of all of Sergey Prokofiev’s seven symphonies. Together they embark on a very challenging project, both in terms of time and level of technical difficulty, a project that demanded huge efforts and potential from the orchestra conductor alike. Prokofiev’s symphonies could not be more varied. They were written at different times throughout the composer’s life and each one individually reflects the pressure of political dictatorship and forced submission to merciless censorship that was prevalent throughout the Soviet-era. On the other hand, the huge energy, the hopes and desires, emotional and social messages conveyed between the lines could not be vanquished even by dictators and censors.
Since he became the music director and conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas has largely focused his attention on presenting the symphonies of Gustav Mahler in splendid audiophile recordings, for which he has received critical and popular praise. So his first hybrid SACD of works by Claude Debussy comes as a surprise, not only because the sound world is quite different from Mahler's, but Tilson Thomas' interest in Debussy has seemed less obsessive over the years.
This recording follows on a successful reading by the same forces of Bernstein's Symphony No. 3 ("Kaddish") of 1963. You can see why they started with the later work first, although the 1965 revision of the Symphony No. 2 ("The Age of Anxiety") actually postdates the earlier-numbered work. All three works share a common theme, namely the crisis of faith, but the oratorio-like "Kaddish" Symphony has a dramatic quality that makes its concerns explicitly.