Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky: L'Oiseau de feu; Apollon Musagète

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On October 23, 1957, Igor Stravinsky conducted a concert of his ballet Apollon musagète and the suite from the ballet L'Oiseau de feu with the Rome Symphony Orchestra of the RAI, and the program was recorded for broadcast by Radiotelevisione Italiana. As might be expected of a live recording of this vintage, it is slightly noisy from random sounds on-stage, a bit scrappy in attack and rough in tone, and the audio is heavily compressed, but these features are not so bothersome that they prevent enjoyment of the music. Indeed, once one has adjusted to the flaws of this recording and accepted that Stravinsky's best-sounding renditions of these works were made in the 1960s, then this album can take its rightful place as an important historical document and give the listener a fairly close-up and surprisingly intimate feeling of Stravinsky at work. Contrary to the notion that Stravinsky was always cool and objective about his music, one gets a sense that these are deeply involved and fairly emotional interpretations of works that, despite their external elegance, provide a lot of room for expression. Apollon musagète has moments of intensely tragic beauty that Stravinsky plays for full effect, and despite its neo-Classical polish and passages of cosmopolitan wit, this ballet is quite affecting in its yearning melodies and plangent dissonances. L'Oiseau de feu is Stravinsky's impressionist masterpiece, and as such requires a great deal of atmosphere and orchestral shimmer to work to its best advantage. In this closely miked recording, a good deal of the shimmer is lost, and the dryness of the sound works against the music's lushness. Yet Stravinsky's direction retains most of the magic, and attentive listeners will find that his beat is fairly flexible and his sense of line is quite fluid in this performance. Stravinsky's later recordings for Columbia are certainly the ones that ought to be heard first, but students of his conducting will find much of interest in this offering from Urania.

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