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Stravinsky: The Firebird, Les Noces, Symphony In C, Etc. / Neumann, Czech Philharmonic, Tokyo String Quartet

Stravinsky/ Tokyo String / Kosler / Neumann
Release Date: 07/10/2012 
Label:  Praga   Catalog #: 350057  
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Václav NeumannChristoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic OrchestraTokyo String QuartetPrague Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the problems with recommending reference recordings for composers like Stravinsky lies in the fact that most of his music isn’t very long, so if one performance is great the others on the disc might not be. Here is a collection where just about everything is as good, or better, than the competition, and it’s all the more remarkable given that (a) these are mostly live performances and (b) the two discs feature a very wide range of repertoire and many different artists. The first disc couples The Firebird, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, with Václav Neumann’s Symphony in C, both with the Czech Philharmonic. The former is known quantity: Dohnányi recorded The Firebird for Decca with the Vienna Philharmonic, Read more and that performance was and remains a reference version. This one, while marginally less well engineered, is just as fine: swift, incisive, full of color and character. If I don’t spend too much time talking about it, it’s only because the excellence of the interpretation will already be familiar to many collectors.

Neumann’s Symphony in C comes as a major surprise: it’s fabulous. The Czech Philharmonic plays with unforgettable vibrancy. Their famous woodwinds have so much personality that the music comes alive without the need to resort to inappropriate sentimentality or interpretive point-making, while Neumann’s conducting is as crisp and clear as the playing. Kosler’s Les Noces, similarly, is a reference recording, perhaps the best available. It combines a truly Slav earthiness and edge with a rhythmic intensity and clarity of texture that no other version quite matches. The soloists and choir also sound totally at home with both the language and the musical idiom, and sing superbly. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players then turn in one of the best accounts available of the suite from L’Histoire du soldat, and we have no less than the Tokyo String Quartet in the Three Pieces and the Concertino. Mezzo soprano Milada Boubliková concludes the program stylishly with the rarely performed Three Songs from William Shakespeare (1953) for voice, viola, flute, and clarinet.

Given the wide range of repertoire and recording dates (1970-87), the engineering is amazingly, consistently fine. The performances have been remastered here in SACD stereo, and sound more impressive than ever. Yes, the program is somewhat haphazard, but when it’s all this good it simply adds up to a unique and wholly recommendable collection, and a magnificent tribute to Stravinsky’s omnivorous genius.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony in C by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Václav Neumann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940; USA 
2. Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Russia 
3. L'histoire du soldat: Suite for Chamber Ensemble by Igor Stravinsky
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; Switzerland 
4. Pieces (3) for String Quartet by Igor Stravinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Switzerland 
5. Concertino for String Quartet by Igor Stravinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
6. Les noces by Igor Stravinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra,  Prague Radio Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 

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