There are arguably better recorded performances of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony in the world -- one thinks of Mravinsky, Koussevitzky, Rozhdestvensky, Karajan, and Ormandy -- but since the Fifth is one of the twentieth century's outstanding works in the form, the world can always use another strong entry. This 1957 recording with Thomas Schippers leading the Philharmonia Orchestra is surely one of those, offering a heartwarming, searing, and expansive vision of the score recorded in splendid if somewhat distant stereo sound.
For Schippers, the Fifth is less a modernist work of hard edges, sharp angles, and garish colors than a testament to the human spirit carved out of monumental melodies, massive sonorities, and inevitable tempos. The Philharmonia responds to Schippers with power, grace, and a tone of oceanic depth. Coupled here with Schippers' sprightly performances of orchestral arrangements of Rossini's Overture to L'assedio di Corinto with the London Symphony plus Vivaldi's Sinfonie "al Santo Sepolco," Durante's Concerto No. 5 for string orchestra and Salieri's Overture to Axur, re d'Ormus with the Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, this disc will be welcomed by Prokofiev's fans and treasured by Schippers' fans. It should be added that the 1955 sound of the Vivaldi, Durante, and Salieri recordings is much rougher than the smooth, clear 1957 sound of the Prokofiev.