28 June 2009

Disc 10 - Concertos

The disc begins with a work that's new to me, the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. Movements:
Largo; allegro-maestoso
This piece dates from 1923/24, updated in 1950. Played here by Phillippe Entremont with the Columbia SO in 1960. There's a decent wikipedia entry. I'm surprised I haven't heard this before; it's a striking piece with a very lively first movement. The second movement is stately and contemplative, and the third completes it pleasantly - a spirited toccata combining with some calm processional music.

This disc ends with the Violin Concerto, with Isaac Stern and the Columbia SO.
Toccata 5:33
Aria 1: 4:09
Aria 2: 5:08
Capriccio: 5:55

It's a raw performance, with the violin sometimes sounding quite harsh against the orchestra. The sound is very close, quite unlike a more modern recording. The recording makes it sound rather like a chamber orchestra. I think Stern's playing is maybe more romantic than the work, which is essentially neo-classical, needs. The solo part is much more prominent here than in the other recording I have (Kyung Wha Chung), which makes several harsh discords much more obvious.

16 June 2009

Disc 11 Miniature Masterpieces

This disk begins with one of the shortest pieces in the set, the Greetings Prelude, just 49 seconds long. I'm typing this update on 17 June, which is an astonishing co-incidence as the piece is a variation of 'Happy Birthday to You', and today is the anniversary of IS's birth. (I knew this because Google has a commemorative logo.) I would imagine the piece has been played a few times on the radio today. This recording was made by Columbia SO in 1963

The Concerto in E-flat "Dumbarton Oaks" is on this disc, in a recording from 1954. This has always struck me as one of the most amicable works of IS. It's firmly in the neo-classical mode. Wikipedia has a decent article. You could ask why Stravinsky and Prokofiev (1st Symphony) shared this clear affection for the classical approach, when both were major figures in modernism. Stravinsky's huge and enduring influence was Tchaikovsky, but it's hard to hear any of him in this. (Not so long ago, though, Radio 3 ran a week of playing only Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and it was so obvious that every time Stravinsky did something different, there was a precedent in Tchaikovsky.)

Anyway, this was composed in 1937-38.

14 June 2009

Disc 14 Operas - The Nightingale & Mavra

The Nightingale is an opera in 3 acts based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen with a libretto in Russian by Stravinsky and S M Mitusov. This recording was made in 1960 with the Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera Society of Washington DC.

Wikipedia has a summary of the story.

Track 1 is the first act, in which the nightingale makes its appearance.

The music. At first, the music sounded Debussy-esque - a kind of languidness, that's similar to Pelleas & Melisande. But before long, you can hear echoes of the Rite of Spring, perhaps as the Russian language imposes itself upon the music. In Act 2 there's some clear chinoiserie (unsurprisingly), but it soon becomes obvious Stravinsky.

I'm listening to the piece for the first time as I type this, and I really like it. I'm now on the "Song of the Nightingale", sung here by Reri Grist. It's remarkable how unmimetic it is. The voice has a very thin tone, actually quite unalluring. Beautiful rather than pretty. (And I've now looked up Reri Grist on wikipedia and am surprised she's not better known - one of the first Black American classical singers.)

Mavra is an opera buffa in one act based on Pushkin - libretto by Boris Kochin. This recording was made in 1964 with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. The wikipedia entry gives the basic information, including the fact that this dates from 1922, an early work in IS's neo-classical period.

It is contained within one track (14) of the CD. The music is very much like the neo-classicism of Dumbarton Oaks, for example, but the songs are very Russian-folk. The story appears to be a very folkish tale. The WP article says that IS valued this work highly, but it's hard to see why, unless, perhaps, one is Russian.


This blog - Works of Igor Stravinsky - is the result of a bargain Amazon deal. Twenty-two CDs of Stravinsky's works, mainly in recordings made by IS himself, for just £17.99. Obviously, for that price, you get the discs in slip cases in a box and a very skimpy accompanying leaflet, with small print.

So the purpose of this blog is to have one entry per disc, giving me a space to make a better note of the contents. That's it. In the unlikely event that anyone else stumbles across this, of course they are welcome to contribute.