Disk of 2022
The Cleveland Orchestra and conductor Franz Welser-Möst – CD Review, April 6th, 2023
Remarkable is the willingness of the Cleveland Orchestra to offer us a new version of Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, op. 100, under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst - a digital release under its own label. It is one of the Symphonies with the most versions on disc, this not being an impediment to new, no less valuable appearances. Any great symphony orchestra, from any continent, invariably looks in this direction as well, because the musical material retains its relevance, creativity and importance beyond time - a symphony composed in the midst of war, in 1944, according to the author's view, it is like a "hymn addressed to the free and happy man, to his strength, to his noble and pure spirit".
In this new recording, we can find everything related to monumentality, to an all-encompassing sonority; an impeccable compartment of the strings, like an "n" times amplified sound of a violin and a feeling of "inhuman perfection" (a phrase I borrow from the comments addressed to the pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli). Adding the broad phrasing from part I - Andante, which gives off an inner support that reaches deep melancholy, acutely dramatic moments, as well as a comforting serenity. The dynamic range covers a huge palette, rising up to paroxysmal moments. In part II - Allegro marcato, Prokofiev's gene is fully highlighted in style, one can recognize the acid formulations of an unperturbed rhythmicity, the unmistakable irony and satire - so colorfully expressed at the timbral level. Part III - Adagio, unfolds with the same dramatic consistency of part I, but at a slower tempo, gradually building sound stages towards an impressive culmination, on a sometimes gloomy, sometimes melancholic note. While the ending leads us into the familiar register of the "Romeo and Juliet" ballet, bright, incisive, thrilling, giocoso.
It is no coincidence that the legendary sound of this orchestra, highlighted to the fullest in this recording too, is so much talked about. Over the years, established maestros - conductors Erich Leinsdorf, George Szell, Lorin Maazel, Christoph von Dohnányi, were part of the orchestra. A few words about Franz Welser-Möst, Musical Director of the Cleveland Orchestra for 21 years, with a contract valid until 2027 - the longest in the history of this ensemble. He is highly appreciated for his professionalism and his creativity alike. According to a columnist of The New York Times, the Cleveland Orchestra led by Franz Welser-Möst "is America's finest orchestra, unmatched in virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color and chamber-like musical cohesion". It is no coincidence that it is the only American orchestra that has residency contracts at the Musikverein in Vienna. We will listen to their version of Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, one that we will certainly remember and admire.