The Prodigal Son, Op. 46, a ballet composed in 1928 by Sergey Prokofiev for George Balanchine and Sergei Diaghilev, is a somewhat neglected work. That's hard to understand, considering that when done by a conductor with a feel for Prokofiev's crowd-pleasing melodies, for instance Marin Alsop, the work emerges with an abundance of them. Anyone who enjoys the composer's Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, ought to get to know this work better, and the spirited playing of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra offers an introduction to rival those of better-known groups. The Symphony No. 4, Op. 112, composed just after the ballet, was drawn on its thematic material; Prokofiev later revised it to broaden its orchestral palette, and it is that revised version of 1947 that is heard here. Prokofiev gave the example of Beethoven's The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43, and the Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 ("Eroica"), as a precedent for this pair of works, but its reception, from both premiere-giver Sergey Koussevitzky and early audiences, was lukewarm. Even today, the themes seem to wander rather than develop, although the depth of the São Paulo orchestra's talents continue to impress. The bottom line is that for Prokofiev buffs, this recording, well recorded on the orchestra's Sala São Paulo home ground, competes effectively with other similar pairings on the market.
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 4; The Prodigal Son Review
by James Manheim