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Stravinsky: Symphony In 3 Movements, Symphony Of Psalms, Etc

Release Date: 11/14/2006 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93183   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony OrchestraCologne West German Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements. Symphony in C. Symphony of Psalms 1 Michael Gielen, cond; Cologne West German RCh; 1 Southwest German RSO Baden-Baden und Freiburg HÄNSSLER 93.183 (77:34)

Although we are not told that these are live performances, each was recorded over a two or three-day span (in 2003, 2006, and 2005, Read more respectively) in the Freiburg Concert Hall, which is suggestive. In all three works, a medium-sized body of strings allows Stravinsky’s pungent harmonies, which are usually built in the winds, to stand out. This is preferable to many readings by 108-player orchestras, which tend to smother the winds under lush strings (the composer’s own recordings of these symphonies take a middle ground). The recording acoustic is bright and hard, which suits much of this music and all of these performances.

Like most performances of the Symphony in Three Movements , Gielen’s begins well, with all the power and strength required by this masterpiece. I began to hope that here at last was a recording in up-to-date sonics which could match both the composer’s 1946 premiere recording with the New York Philharmonic and my new favorite, a surprisingly fine 1960 barely-stereo one by Paul Sacher, available in a Musiques Suisses four-disc set titled “Resonances” ( Fanfare 30:3). But Gielen, like most others, soon succumbs to the works blandishments, losing concentration in the middle of both the first and third (Finale) movements. In particular, Gielen has his French horns playing with the utmost smoothness, which goes against the spirit of their parts.

The Symphony in C is played with a power and thrust not heard in either of Stravinsky’s Columbia recordings, but the latter are more buoyant, more humorous. Both approaches are fine with me; it is good to hear the piece both ways. Gielen’s second movement, Larghetto concertante, weaves a delicate web and features melting oboe solos, but the composer makes more of the subtle rhythms in the central section. There are a few muffed notes here—although no real clams—from the French horns, as one might expect in a live performance.

Although recorded in the same hall, the acoustic for the Symphony of Psalms is somewhat warmer. Some of Gielen’s tempos are a bit stodgy; that, plus choral singing that never reaches the rapt intensity inherent in the music, keeps this from the top rank of recorded performances. At the start of Psalm 40, the solo oboe is again gorgeous. In addition to the composer’s own readings (which are very fine in all three works), I am especially taken with one by the Czech Philharmonic in Supraphon’s current Karel An?erl Edition.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Symphony in Three Movements by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942-1945; USA 
Length: 23 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Symphony in C by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940; USA 
Length: 31 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Chorus,  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930/1948; France 
Length: 22 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

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