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Stravinsky: The Ballets / Robert Craft


Release Date: 03/31/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8506009   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Andrew GreenanStephen RichardsonOlga TrifonovaPaul Whelan,   ... 
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraPhilharmonia OrchestraSimon Joly Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

"If you're looking for an easy way to acquire the most important body of ballet music ever composed in the history of the universe, this set is a great deal." -- David Hurwitz

APOLLO, AGON, ORPHEUS:


I can't think of another conductor I would rather hear in this music than Robert Craft, not just because he is more respectful of the text than just about anyone else, but because he has the confidence and integrity to respect the music's understated idiom--to suggest rather than announce--as well as a keen understanding of the rhythmic element that underpins it all. This last factor is particularly critical in Apollo, music whose extreme stylization can
Read more become a caricature if taken too slowly or denied the necessary lightness and grace. Craft's supple leadership keeps the piece moving along smartly, with a firm lyrical line threading through the acres of ornament. In Agon, his careful observance of dynamics ensures that the difficult-to-capture licks for harp and mandoline register with complete naturalness and clarity. Orpheus, one of Stravinsky's most striking and luminous pieces, has a cool beauty that Craft realizes particularly well, again by taking care over matters of phrasing and balance. I could be very specific as to the scores, but suffice it to say that just about every page contains relevant examples of what I am describing. More importantly, with excellent playing and sonics, all at a budget price, if you want this music you can't do better. [5/27/2005]
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

RITE OF SRPING, ROSSIGNOL:

Robert Craft's performance of The Rite of Spring, rescued from oblivion on Koch, proves that in the early ballets he can be both accurate as well as exciting. Extremely well played by the London Symphony, seldom have the complex textures in the Introduction to Part One or the Ritual of the Rival Tribes sounded so clear and natural. And yet, in the Dance of the Earth, or the concluding Sacrificial Dance, Craft pulls out all of the stops to really impressive effect. The sonics are excellent, both here and in The Nightingale--this latter a beautiful, neglected piece that sounds much better in its original operatic form than in its later, formally somewhat dysfunctional symphonic dress. Once again Craft leads a superb performance of the orchestral part, and the singers are mostly fine. Olga Trifonova's bright soprano does well by the nightingale, but Robert Tear and Pippa Longworth, as the fisherman and the cook, sound vocally stressed despite being clearly involved in their parts. Still, with transliterated text and English translation, this is a very good deal.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

PULCINELLA, BAISER DE LA FEE

These performances were released previously by Koch, and it's good to see them reappearing here at budget price. Like most of Robert Craft's Stravinsky discs, this is very, very good, and questioning the conductor's authority in this music is tantamount to casting doubt on the composer himself (though not on his own hit-and-miss conducting!). The coupling is apt: both works are based on earlier music--Gallo and Pergolesi (for the most part) on the one hand, Tchaikovsky on the other. As Craft points out in his notes, however, Pulcinella remains comparatively faithful to the originals, with changes principally in terms of rhythm and scoring. The Fairy's Kiss, though, takes Tchaikovsky's tunes as a starting point, modifying them considerably, with most of the music being effectively original. Compared to the reference recordings above, Craft can appear to value precision over sheer excitement (as in the finale of Pulcinella), but this is quibbling: overall he gets fine results from both orchestras as well as from his three singers (in Pulcinella). If you're looking for both ballets complete, the combination of value and artistic quality on offer here speaks for itself.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

OEDIPUS REX, LES NOCES


Robert Craft leads a thrilling performance of Oedipus Rex--incisive, swift, and as mercilessly inevitable as fate itself. From the opening bars, where those spine-chilling runs in the trumpet penetrate the orchestral tutti like screams of horror, you can tell that Craft has every detail of this work (his second recording) well in hand, and so for that matter does the Philharmonia. Anyone who believes that Craft is a dull conductor should listen to this urgent account--from the great choruses (first announcing Jocasta's entrance, with particularly clear timpani and piano ostinatos, and later her death), to the Verdian energy he brings to the Oedipus/Jocasta duet in Act 2. It would have been even better if Craft had followed Stravinsky's lead in his own early-1960s recording: repeat the "Gloria" chorus with the opening Act 2 narration in the middle. It's not a major point, and strictly speaking it's not what's in the score; but it's such marvelous music, and hearing it twice simply doubles the pleasure.

As for the singers, they do well--for the most part. After some initial unsteadiness Martyn Hill settles down to close Act 1 most affectingly, and his singing in Act 2 is very good. Jennifer Lane's Jocasta sounds younger than, say, Jessye Norman's, and her lighter touch gets around the notes better than many a bigger, heavier voice. As Creon, David Wilson-Johnson offers disappointingly approximate pitch in his big Act 1 aria, but he does much better in the slower-moving proclamations of the Messenger. The smaller roles come off without any problems, and the Simon Joly Male Chorus sings more confidently than it did in Craft's Symphony of Psalms. Speaker Edward Fox sounds like a bored Oxford don, but at least he admirably refrains from the annoying histrionics that some bring to the part (particularly in its French-language version). And Craft naturally makes sure that as Stravinsky wanted, Fox pronounces the protagonist's name "Eedipus" as opposed to the chorus' "Oydipus".

Craft's Les Noces--he would with good reason prefer the Russian title "Svadebka"--is simply spectacular. Not only does it feature both superb playing by the four pianos and percussion and marvelous singing by soprano Alison Wells and Martyn Hill, but it's clear that Craft has invested a great deal of care and attention in getting clear articulation of the Russian text. This is critical because, as Craft explains in his notes, the music flows naturally from the speech-rhythms of the words. So many performances of this marvelous piece sound like garbled chanting in an unrecognizable tongue. Craft ensures that for once we really hear the Russian, and just as significantly he balances his forces perfectly so that singers and instrumentalists play off each other with an astonishing degree of rhythmic tension. The resulting explosion of color and energy (you can hear this at any point, but the transition from the third to the fourth scene offers an excellent example) has few if any equals in other performances--including Craft's earlier one on Music Masters. Ideally clear and focused sound completes this very desirable package, given new life thanks to Naxos (these performances previously appeared, differently coupled, on Koch). [2/5/2005]
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

JEU DE CARTES, DANSES CONCERTANTES, SCENES DE BALLETS

I have no criticism whatsoever about the excellence of these performances. No one plays neo-classical and late Stravinsky as well as Robert Craft, and whether in his energetic and witty account of Jeu de cartes, or the nicely "sec" articulation he uses to characterize the Danses and Scènes, these performances are as fine as any available, and they are very well recorded. Mark Wait also is a fine piano soloist in the Capriccio, giving a swift and uncommonly high-spirited rendition. The Variations belongs among Stravinsky's most uncompromisingly arid compositions. Craft delivers the piece with his usual clarity and focus, but like some Webern, the fact that you can listen to this brief work multiple times to try to "get it" doesn't mean that you will want to or that it's time well spent. Indeed my only qualm about this disc, one that prevents my giving it the highest rating, is that if you enjoy neo-classical Stravinsky you likely won't want the Variations. Still, it's only a bit more than five minutes of music and you can always ignore it. If the coupling suits, then don't hesitate.

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

1.
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943). 
2.
Le rossignol by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Andrew Greenan (Bass), Stephen Richardson (Bass), Olga Trifonova (Soprano),
Paul Whelan (Baritone), Pippa Longworth (Soprano), Robert Tear (Tenor),
Sally Burgess (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Hall (Tenor), Simon Preece (Bass)
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1914; Russia 
3.
Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Diana Montague (Mezzo Soprano), Robin Leggate (Tenor), Mark Beesley (Bass)
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1919 - 1920). 
4.
Le baiser de la fée by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928/1950; France 
5.
Oedipus rex by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Jennifer Lane (Mezzo Soprano), Edward Fox (Spoken Vocals), Joseph Cornwell (Tenor),
Andrew Greenan (Bass), Martyn Hill (Tenor), David Wilson-Johnson (Baritone)
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1927; France 
6.
Les noces by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Martyn Hill (Tenor), Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano), Alan Ewing (Bass),
Alison Wells (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Joly Chorus,  Tristan Fry Percussion Ensemble,  International Piano Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1917 - 1923). 
7.
Jeu de cartes by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; France 
8.
Danses concertantes by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  20th Century Classics Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
9.
Scènes de ballet by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
10.
Variations for Orchestra "Aldous Huxley in memoriam" by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1963-1964; USA 
11.
Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Mark Wait (Piano)
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928-1929; France 
12.
Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Russia 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1909 - 1910). 
13.
Pétrouchka by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911).
Composition revised: 1947. 
14.
Apollon musagète by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1927 - 1928). 
15.
Agon by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
16.
Orpheus by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Robert Craft
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 

Sound Samples

Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): Introduction
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): The Augurs of Spring / Dances of the Young Girls
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): Ritual of Abduction
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): Spring Rounds
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): Ritual of the Rival Tribes
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (Adoration of the Earth): Dance of the Earth
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Introduction
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Mystic Circles of the Young Girls
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Glorification of the Chosen One
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Evocation of the Ancestors
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Ritual Action of the Ancestors
Le sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II (The Sacrifice): Sacrificial Dance
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Introduction
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Fisherman
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Nightingale's Aria
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Chamberlain, Bonze, Cook, Courtiers
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Second Entrance of the Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Chamberlain and Bonze
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Nightingale's Second Aria
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Chamberlain and Bonze
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 1 (The Forest at Dawn): Fisherman
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Prelude
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Cook
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Prelude (reprise)
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Chinese March
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Chamberlain
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Song of the Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): The Japanese Envoys
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): The Mechanical Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): The Emperor, Chamberlain, Courtiers
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Chinese March (reprise)
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 2 (The Porcelain Palace of the Chinese Emperor): Fisherman
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Prelude
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Chorus of Ghosts, Emperor
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Death and the Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Nightingale's Aria
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Emperor and Nightingale
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Funeral Procession
Le rossignol (The Nightingale): Scene 3 (The Emperor's Bedchamber): Fisherman
Pulcinella: I. Overture
Pulcinella: II. Serenata: Mentre l'erbetta
Pulcinella: III. Scherzino - Allegro - Andantino - Allegro
Pulcinella: IV. Allegretto: Contento forse vivere
Pulcinella: V. Allegro assai
Pulcinella: VI. Allegro (alla breve): Con queste paroline
Pulcinella: VII. Largo: Sento dire no' nce pace
Pulcinella: VIII. Chi disse ca la femmena
Pulcinella: IX. Allegro: Nce sta quaccuna po'
Pulcinella: X. Presto: Una te fa la nzemprece
Pulcinella: XI. Larghetto
Pulcinella: XII. Allegro alla breve
Pulcinella: XIII. Allegro moderato: Tarantella
Pulcinella: XIV. Andantino: Se tu m'ami
Pulcinella: XV. Toccata
Pulcinella: XVI. Allegro moderato: Gavotta with 2 Variations: Allegretto - Allegro
Pulcinella: XVII. Vivo
Pulcinella: XVIII. Minuet: Pupillette - fiammette
Pulcinella: XIX. Finale: Allegro assai
Le baiser de la fee (The Fairy's Kiss): Scene I
Le baiser de la fee (The Fairy's Kiss): Scene II
Le baiser de la fee (The Fairy's Kiss): Scene III
Le baiser de la fee (The Fairy's Kiss): Scene IV

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