Recorded in April 2013 at the Barbican in London, these live performances of Igor Stravinsky's oratorio Oedipus Rex and the ballet Apollon musagète are among the most vivid on SACD, thanks to the energizing conducting of John Eliot Gardiner, the hypnotic singing of the Monteverdi Choir, and the vibrant playing of the London Symphony Orchestra. Granitic and block-like, Oedipus Rex is cast in a monumental style, and Stravinsky's setting of Sophocles' tragedy is severe and grim. Yet the Monteverdi Choir's incantatory singing and the rhythmic playing of the LSO keep the piece exciting, and Gardiner's urgent tempos keep the music pulsing. Apollon musagète, written for string orchestra, provides a clear contrast in sound and expression, and where Oedipus is stark and off-putting, this neo-classical ballet is elegant and poignant. Yet Gardiner's interpretation emphasizes the athletic aspect of the dance, and the strong rhythmic impulse propels the music forward, without unnecessarily rushing the pace. The most enjoyable aspect of this audiophile recording is the luscious sound of the orchestra, surprisingly so in Apollon musagète, which is often played by other ensembles on the dry side. But the orchestra's full textures and gorgeous string sonorities give a warmth that benefits the piece.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson