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Stravinsky: L'oiseau De Feu / Roth, Les Siecles

Release Date: 12/13/2011 
Label:  Actes Sud   Catalog #: 6   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Igor StravinskyEdvard GriegAlexander GlazunovChristian Sinding
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


STRAVINSKY The Firebird & François-Xavier Roth, cond; Les Siècles LES SIÈCLES LIVE ASM 06 (60:12) Live: Paris 10/2/2010, Laon 10/9/2010

& GLAZUNOV Read more Raymonda: excerpts. The Seasons: Pas de deux; Bacchanale. SINDING Danse orientale. ARENSKY Nuits égyptienne. GRIEG Le Djinn

Sur instruments d’époque, announces the cover. That is, the instruments of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, “crafted in French workshops, gut strings, and a playing style straight out of the Conservatoire de Paris master classes.” The strings are 22/8/7/6. Every wind instrument is identified by maker and by date, from 1889 to 1930. There are three harpists and seven percussionists. It all works; the disc makes a charming, thoroughly engaging impression. Judging from recordings of French orchestras made early in the 20th century, these 2010 players are far more skilled and attentive than their 1910 counterparts. Even the names of the musicians generate a romantic, exotic aura: Amaryllis Billet, Quentin Jaussaud, Aurore Pingard, Valeria Kafelnikov—I could go on and on. The recorded sound from both venues is reverberant but gorgeous.

The miscellaneous pieces come first on this disc, because they are not encores but rather a reconstruction of a Diaghilev ballet, Les Orientales , which preceded The Firebird at its June 25, 1910, premiere. The original scores may not have been available to Les Siècles, as the Sinding and Grieg pieces have been reorchestrated by Charlie Piper and Bruno Mantovani respectively. Most are familiar nuggets—the type of music Beecham called lollipops. Lots of fun, they would have made a delightful evening at the ballet, until The Firebird made people forget they existed. Today the Stravinsky score is so ubiquitous that Les Orientales is a refreshing change, exotic in its own genteel way.

We have become accustomed to modern performances by crack symphony orchestras—I’m thinking of the Concertgebouw’s stunning Firebird Suite on its own label—that deliver maximum excitement and whiplash precision. That’s a shame, in a way, as it makes this marvelously evocative performance seem a bit sleepy at times. (I’ve said it before: There are moments of routine fill in the complete Firebird. ) There is no way that gut strings can deliver the punch of steel, but they offer their own rewards. I’m convinced that this is a realistic reconstruction of the original performances of both these ballets, and I recommend this disc as a wonderful time capsule. Oh! To have been there, for The Firebird, Petrushka , and Le Sacre du printemps.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Russia 
Lyric Pieces (7), Book 10, Op. 71: no 3, Puck by Edvard Grieg
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; Norway 
Raymonda, Op. 57: Excerpt(s) by Alexander Glazunov
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896-1897; Russia 
Pieces (6) for Piano, Op. 32: no 5, Danse Orientale by Christian Sinding
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles

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