Fine as they are -- and they are as well-played and well-conducted as any recordings of the works ever made -- Robert Craft's otherwise unimpeachable recordings of Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss and Pulcinella are too cool for affection and too straight for laughs. The Fairy's Kiss is Stravinsky's artfully knocked-together pastiche of Tchaikovsky while Pulcinella is his brilliantly cobbled-together pastiche of Pergolesi. In the right performance, The Fairy's Kiss can be amazingly touching with Tchaikovsky's maudlin melodies treated with the greatest respect and the deepest affection by Stravinsky, while Pulcinella, in the right performance, can be amazingly funny with Pergolesi's spicy melodies treated with a sly wit and, likewise, the deepest affection by the composer. But Craft, Stravinsky's amanuensis and later his musical legatee, seems unable to bend and so The Fairy's Kiss sounds hard and stiff for and Pulcinella sounds ironic and almost sarcastic. While the Philharmonia's musicians play with their customary professional virtuosity, Craft favors a lean tone and a narrow sonority with clipped rhythms and quick tempos that vitiates their customary warm and blended sound. The result are performances that one cannot help but admire technically any more than one can help but be put off by emotionally. Naxos' remastering of the original mid-'90s recordings is crisp and clean.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Pulcinella, ballet with song in 1 act, for 3 vocal soloists & orchestra|
|Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss), ballet in 4 scenes for orchestra|