Following on from Gergiev's set with the LSO, Phoenix released in 2008 a new cycle with Dmitri Kitaenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra, who had already demonstrated the powerful chemistry of their collaboration in a Shostakovich cycle. Inexplicably, this recording did not find its way into our offices (…). Now, we can give the set the recognition it deserves in our columns – late, but all the more emphatically for that, for there can be no doubt that Kitaenko's Prokofiev symphonies are reference recordings. No other conductor, not even Gergiev, has presented this symphonic material so vividly, nor penetrated so deeply into all seven works. (…) Unlike Gergiev, Kitaenko can bear the heat and keep a cool head, structuring the music more commandingly than any other conductor, constantly taking pains to achieve the clearest architecture and most beautiful transparency of tone possible. The result is an incomparable richness of sound, in which Prokofiev's brilliant powers of imagination are revealed as never before.
Even in the First Symphony Kitaenko makes clear that he deals with substance rather than superficial lustre. His tempi are measured, and Prokofiev does not completely disappear behind the classical façade. (…) The two-movement Second Symphony comes across in all its violence of expression, just as in the Third, which I have never heard so thrillingly played, nor have I ever been able to keep track so well of the different lines, in which sometimes, heard in contrast, the most monstrous things happen.
For the Fourth Symphony, Kitaenko directs both the original 1930 version and the 1947 revision, an eminently sensible decision, as the two versions are very different from one another. (…) Kitaenko takes care to bring out the at times breathtaking tonal effects of the revised version.
Without exception we are dealing with masterful performances here, in which the level of inspiration of both director and players is at its maximum. And as the sound technicians have sought a spatially extremely well-constructed sound, all conditions have been met for us to talk about not just an outstanding recording, but rather the absolute best performance. This is the Prokofiev cycle everyone should have.
English: John Furnborough