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Stravinsky: Canticum Sacrum, Agon, Requiem Canticles / Gielen, Doufexis, Elsner, Rosen, Et Al


Release Date: 11/11/2008 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93226   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Stella DoufexisChristian ElsnerRudolf Rosen
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony OrchestraStuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



STRAVINSKY Canticum sacrum. 1 Agon. Requiem Canticles 2 Michael Gielen, cond; Christian Elsner (ten); 1 Rudolf Rosen (bbar); 1,2 Stella Doufexis (sop); 2 Southwest German RSO & Vocal Ens HÄNSSLER 93.226 (57:22 Text, no Translation) Read more />

These performances of Stravinsky’s late masterworks were recorded in 2004 ( Agon ) and 2007, at Konzerthaus Freiburg. Gielen digs deeply, wringing an impressive, serious (and slow) performance from the score of Canticum sacrum . In his seventies when he wrote this, his first dodecaphonic score, Stravinsky had become religious, which comes through in this performance. The composer’s own recording makes little of the work, which had always left me cold. Chorus, soloists, and orchestra are far superior here, and the piece blooms.


Gielen’s seriousness weighs Agon down. Although his tempos generally follow the composer’s—two of the 16 sections are a bit faster than in Stravinsky’s 1957 recording—the piece has little life. Stravinsky’s reading dances with joy; Gielen’s does not suggest the ballet stage. Agon was written in Stravinsky’s very personal mix of tonality and the 12-tone system; his performance suggests the former, Gielen’s the latter. Both recordings are a bit too reverberant but otherwise sound fine—so much for half a century of technical progress.


Despite its reputation as difficult music, many passages in the Requiem Canticles —orchestral, vocal, and choral—recall Oedipus Rex . In the “Libera me,” the chorus simultaneously sings and speaks, producing an otherworldly effect heard nowhere else in music; in his final major work, the 89-year-old revolutionary was still making musical history. Gielen is back in his element with this work; his forces realize that moment ideally, and the performance maintains a dignified, memorial character. Stravinsky did not record the Requiem Canticles ; the recording in Sony’s 22-CD set is led by Robert Craft. It is an aggressive, brightly lit performance, with soloists, chorus, and orchestra all closely miked. The result is undeniably brilliant, but it sounds nothing like a Requiem. Craft’s “Libera me” is less affecting than Gielen’s, as the singing choristers overwhelm the speaking ones. On the other hand, the bells (celesta, glockenspiel, and vibraphone) in the Postlude are heard to better advantage in Craft’s recording. These vastly different takes complement each other, with fascinating results.


Although the notes appear in both German and English, vocal texts are given in the sung Latin, and the sections of Agon are described only in German. This is a disc for serious listeners who believe that Stravinsky lost his way, or his abilities, in the final compositions.


FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

1.
Canticum sacrum ad honorem Sancti Marci nominis by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Stella Doufexis (Mezzo Soprano), Christian Elsner (Tenor), Rudolf Rosen (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
2.
Agon by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Stella Doufexis (Mezzo Soprano), Rudolf Rosen (Bass), Christian Elsner (Tenor)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
3.
Requiem Canticles by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Rudolf Rosen (Bass), Christian Elsner (Tenor), Stella Doufexis (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965-1966; USA 

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