If one characteristic of neo-classicism is emphasized in this recording by the Eastman Wind Ensemble and the Eastman Virtuosi, it must be dryness, for nearly every aspect of these performances of Igor Stravinsky's Octet and L'Histoire du soldat is presented with this distinctive quality. There's every reason to treat these works with objectivity and coolness, for Stravinsky insisted on a certain detachment in the music he composed in the wake of World War I, but especially so in the pieces of his neo-classical phase, which lasted until the middle of the 20th century. The Eastman musicians, under the direction of Mark Scatterday, are precise in their rhythms and dynamics, playing the Octet with a meticulousness that is almost clinical. The same exactitude and lack of affect is even more pronounced in L'Histoire, with the only expressions evident in Jan Opalach's engaging narration. Add to the players' decidedly arid tonal production the nearly airless acoustics, which have little resonance, and the effect of this album is quite close to Stravinsky's ideal conditions. While this dryness might seem off-putting, it allows for maximum clarity and crispness, so textures are utterly transparent and virtually every note can be heard.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Octet for Wind Instruments|
|L' Histoire du soldat|