Stravinsky: Orchestral Works. © 2022 Chandos Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

Some Delicious Playing

GEOFF PEARCE listens to Stravinsky

'The BBC Philharmonic's performance is fine indeed ...'


As a long time admirer of the conductor Sir Andrew Davis, and of the music of Stravinsky, I was keen to hear this new offering from Chandos. As is typical of the label, the quality of the performances, recording and informative booklet do not disappoint. The works are ones that are frequently performed, except perhaps the Greeting Prelude, which was the first time I had heard this work.

The Greeting Prelude was written in 1955 to commemorate the eightieth birthday of the great Pierre Monteux, who, from his early days in Paris, was a champion of Stravinsky's music. Whilst this brief work of under one minute explores serial techniques, it is unmistakably Stravinsky and is jaunty and celebratory, reflecting the occasion.

Listen — Stravinsky: Greeting Prelude
(CHSA 5315 track 1, 0:02-0:18) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

The next work is the four movement Symphony in C, written in the 1930s and completed in 1940. At the time Stravinsky started writing this work he had health problems, his wife, eldest daughter and mother all died within a few months of each other, and then he moved to America and had a heavy teaching schedule. None of this is evident in the work, which is of generally sunny disposition. It was dedicated to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Stravinsky had written an earlier symphony in his youth when he was still a student, and this is rarely performed these days, but the Symphony in C is firmly neoclassical (as opposed to the Romantic earlier work) and remains a popular concert piece. It contains thematic references to the earlier Symphony of Psalms (written in 1930). It is an engaging work with widely varied dynamics, brilliant orchestration and strong melodies. Even though it is unmistakably twentieth century music, the melodic skill and generally genial nature of this work and references to the past, particularly one striking reference to Tchaikovsky in the first movement, have helped ensure this work's popularity. There are moments where full orchestra is used and others where the writing is much more intimate and chamber music like, and this recording really makes the most of these. There is some delicious playing, the first oboe being particularly outstanding.

Listen — Stravinsky: Moderato alla breve (Symphony in C)
(CHSA 5315 track 2, 5:06-5:52) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

Divertimento (1934), uses music extracted from Stravinsky's ballet Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss), which in turn utilises music of Tchaikovsky. The booklet outlines what has been used and where it was drawn from. I have listened to the ballet many times and love it, but had not heard the Divertimento before, and it makes a great four movement suite, capturing as it does some of the loveliest moments of the ballet. I am sure this will be a favourite of many listeners. There is the warmth and geniality of Tchaikovsky, coupled with the wit and rapidly changing effects that Stravinsky is so well known for. It is a match made in heaven.

Listen — Stravinsky: Scherzo (Divertimento)
(CHSA 5315 track 8, 0:38-1:30) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

The Circus Polka (to be danced by fifty elephants and female dancers!) is a quirky little work and great fun. It includes a rather strange extract from Schubert's Marche Militaire just before the end.

Listen — Stravinsky: Circus Polka
(CHSA 5315 track 10, 2:55-3:35) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

The last work on this excellent disc is the Symphony in Three Movements, first performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1946, which had commissioned the work. It is harder edged than the Symphony in C and demands more of the listener. It took me a few years of listening to really appreciate this work. The booklet points out some of the films that Stravinsky had watched. The first movement was influenced by a movie about the scorched earth tactics employed in China, and is dramatic and quite uncompromising in places; the second by The Song of Bernadette, and in particular the apparition of the virgin scene; and in the last movement, a newsreal that showed goose-stepping soldiers and 'The Rise of the Allies'.

Listen — Stravinsky: Andante (Symphony in Three Movements)
(CHSA 5315 track 12, 3:12-3:49) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

This very fine disc would be a suitable introduction for someone who does not know Stravinsky's music. The BBC Philharmonic's performance is fine indeed, the recording ambience as good as I have ever heard, and the booklet notes informative. This is another disc that would take pride of place in anyone's collection.

Copyright © 11 October 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia








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