Stravinsky The Early Ballet Scores
The dynamic range of this recording is startlingly wide. It’s barely audible in the delicate skein at the beginning of The Firebird Suite but brace yourself. The creak of someone’s chair is heard with subtle fidelity and this intensifies the desired effect rather than detracts. It’s good in the Infernal Dance but somehow lacks the exultant effect achieved in the classic Dorati version of the full ballet on Mercury. The Rite shares the same qualities: those dry-throated shudders, the dramatic dynamics, widely separated sound-stage, the cold primeval magic and the foot-stomping wildness. That said the Sacred Dance seems tired; indeed there are a few moments among the magic where this reading simply does not gel. Set against that the sore abrasion of the trombones in Game of the Rival Tribes and the tectonic ructions of Dance of the Earth. Inwardness is nicely put across too as in the Mystical Circles of the Adolescents. The Petrouchka is a shade tired in The Shrovetide Fair and although the recording qualities are all they should be that aspect rather leaches away the drama. Compare this with the two major ballets recorded by Collins with the same orchestra and Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos in 1989. these have now been reissued on Alto. The Alto is superior in immediacy and in possessed spirit. There are no reservations about the Rozhdestvensky Symphony with its kinetically goaded first movement seemingly inspired by a film of scorched earth warfare in China. Its finale is said to be a musical reaction to newsreels of storm-troopers goose-stepping. The piano adds its pleasingly whiplash momentum to the velocity of this performance. The central movement of the Symphony is nicely cool and pensive. These are very crisp and natural recordings with no hint of applied heat or of technicolor chrome. A plus is that they are also further evidence that after Previn’s years with them the LSO were the most authentic Russian-sounding orchestra in London. The liner-notes are by Bruce Cole.