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Stravinsky: Pulcinella, Symphony, Etudes / Boulez, Chicago SO

Stravinsky / Phan / Ketelsen / Cso / Boulez
Release Date: 01/26/2010 
Label:  Cso Resound   Catalog #: 901920  
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Nicholas PhanRoxana ConstantinescuKyle Ketelsen
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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SuperAudio CD:  $19.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on standard CD players.


STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements. Four Études. Pulcinella 1 Pierre Boulez, cond; Chicago SO; 1 Roxana Constantinescu (mez); Nicholas Phan (ten); Kyle Ketelsen (bs-bar) CSO RESOUND CSOR 901 920 (SACD: Read more 71:12) Live: Chicago 2/26-28, 3/3/2009; 1 3/5–7/2009

Pierre Boulez celebrated his 85th birthday on March 25th of this year. His two principal record labels, DG and Sony, have issued boxes of the maestro’s recordings, two of which are (in the case of Sony, partially) devoted to the music of Igor Stravinsky. This disc from the Chicago Symphony’s house label, however, is the first to offer entirely new performances.

The first two pieces in the program are remakes; the symphony was included in a disc from Berlin recorded in 1996, and the études accompanied the complete Firebird , recorded by the CSO in 1992. In each case, the new performances benefit from the heightened atmosphere of the live concert, and from the use of SACD technology. The Boulez precision is fully in evidence, and the CSO responds with playing of felicity and breadth; while I can’t vouch for the surround mix, the two-channel stereo and SACD programs are full-bodied, deep, and rich in detail.

The attraction for most listeners will be the performance of the complete Pulcinella ballet. Boulez has recorded the suite, but this is his first recording of the complete work, and it is a delight from start to finish. The youthful voices of the soloists complement the freshness of the orchestral settings (the critic Tim Page characterized the melodies as “cool, sweet, citric,” and that seems perfectly apposite here). Nicholas Phan’s vocal quality in “Mentre l’erbetta” is almost that of a countertenor, bringing poignancy to the portrait of the shepherdess. The vocalists as an ensemble sing with impressive sincerity (Kyle Ketelsen, especially, brings a convincingly ardent quality to his songs), and the sound production often imparts all of the intimacy of a smaller chamber.

While it may be hard to reconcile Boulez the youthful firebrand with this particular facet of Stravinsky’s art, the conductor avers (in an interview included in the booklet) that, while he had little use for most of Stravinsky’s neoclassical compositions, Pulcinella was the exception. Boulez describes the work as a “game,” comparing it to “an old monument that you paint over with very vivid colors, so you don’t see the history, you see the colors.” He also says that he likes to conduct it because “it’s like a toy within your hands.”

There is a handful of CDs of the complete Pulcinella, though most are only found in multi-disc sets. Robert Craft’s version on Naxos (accompanied by The Fairy’s Kiss ), endorsed by William Zagorski in Fanfare 29:5, has the advantages of authoritative conducting and low price. Stravinsky’s own mono performance with the Cleveland Orchestra, recorded in 1953 (Sony, two CDs), still sounds fresh, though his soloists are merely adequate. Unless price is of paramount consideration, this new Chicago Symphony recording is an easy recommendation, mostly for the ballet, though the substantial discmates certainly add incentive.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Nicholas Phan (Tenor), Roxana Constantinescu (Alto), Kyle Ketelsen (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Symphony in Three Movements by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942-1945; USA 
Etudes (4) for Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928/1952; France 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A Sonic Surprise April 1, 2015 By frank prestrelski (Portland, OR) See All My Reviews "Until this recording I had never heard a recording on the CSO in house label. It was the only Hi-Res Pulcinella I could find so I purchased. I consider this amongst the best performance / recording combinations I now own. Very highly recommended." Report Abuse
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