Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Igor Stravinsky, Robert Craft, Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble|
Stravinsky 125th Anniversary Album
Genres: Jazz, Miscellaneous, Classical
TWENTIETH CENTURY CLASSICS ENS
TWENTIETH CENTURY CLASSICS ENS
Superb Stravinsky Celebration with Robert Craft on the Podiu
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 08/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Naxos is favoring us with a valuable still-continuing series devoted to performances of Stravinsky's works conducted by his artistic 'godson', Robert Craft, a magnificent interpreter of the composer's music. When I first saw the announcement of this issue I figured it would be all reissues but that is not the case, at least with the two biggest and most important pieces here -- Rite of Spring and the Violin Concerto. Each is newly recorded, and in the case of the concerto, with a marvelous young violinist whom I'd not heard before, Jennifer Frautschi, one who is clearly destined for great things. The booklet notes indicate she is an avid chamber music player, having studied with the original first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet, Robert Mann, and this shows in her playing of the concerto; she is clearly listening closely and responding to her colleagues in the Philharmonia Orchestra. The Concerto has all the spring and vivacity one would hope. Frautschi also is able to find the lyricism in this often spiky work. One cannot say enough, either, about the playing of the orchestra, particularly its winds. Craft has recorded this work before with the Philharmonia, with violinist Krysztof Smietana, and the difference in the two recordings is primarily with the contribution of the soloist -- Frautschi is the player more congenial to Stravinsky's style and she is also given better sonics. A real winner, this one, and, considering that this issue presumably is attempting to give us a taste of Stravinsky's broad stylistic range, this performance is a convincing examplar of the composer's neo-baroque (neo-classic, it's usually called) music.
'Rite of Spring' was recorded early in 2007, Craft's umpteenth recording of the work -- I know of at least two others in the digital era alone -- and it is given an invigorating yet nuanced performance. One notes that it is not as frenetic or brutal as some performances in spite of it being rather faster in spots than most performances. This increased gentleness is, I think, due to Craft's intentional rounding of some sharp corners, possibly with some help from the rich, non-edgy sonics. I suspect Craft is opting to present the work not as an orchestral blockbuster but as an integrated work of musical art. It does not lack for rhythmic acuity, however, and one can easily imagine this performance being danced, as it was originally intended. This is, by the way, the final version Stravinsky made of this oft-emended score. In the informative booklet notes Craft includes a notation '1967 edition, with changes incorporated from the original manuscript, 1913'; I am unable to hear significant changes, however.
The two smaller pieces here are older recordings. 'Zvezdolikiy: Cantata for Male Chorus and Orchestra' was recorded in 1992 with the magnificent Gregg Smith Singers and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. The four-minute work, in English called 'The Star-Faced One', is set to the words of a symbolist poem by Konstantin Balmont, and dates from 1939. It has a Russian sound tinged with Debussyan harmonies. An English translation of Balmont's poem is included in the booklet.
'Symphonies of Wind Instruments' is played in its original 1920 version. Craft calls Stravinsky's 1947 revision 'unfortunate' without going into detail. This work for an ensemble of 25 wind instruments, written in memory of Claude Debussy who had recently died, has become, of course, a classic of wind ensemble literature and there are many fine recordings. This 1991 recording is by a New York group Craft formed, the Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble, and they play the work with the appropriate mixture of piquancy and hieratic formality.
This collection contains exemplary performances of three Stravinsky classics and one rarity. The Violin Concerto rises to the top of the class and the Rite presents its own unique and valuable slant to this oft-recorded work. For these two alone, this issue belongs in the music-lover's library. Added to that are the excellent performances of Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Zvezdolikiy. And remember the name of Jennifer Frautschi; I have no doubt we'll be hearing more from her.
A Must-Have Violin Concerto and Rite of Spring!
goodmusicman | USA | 07/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Naxos CD features absolutely outstanding performances of two of Stravinsky's most famous masterpieces: the Violin Concerto and the Rite of Spring. Robert Craft, longtime friend and associate of Stravinsky leads London's Philharmonia Orchestra in the most satisfying performance of the Rite of Spring I have ever heard. Craft utilizes the 1967 revisions made by Stravinsky and this surely affects many of the details of the score (though nothing that anyone but an expert will notice), which Craft pays such good care to bring out. Every last orchestral detail can be heard in this recording which features amazingly vivid hi-fi sound (yes, on a "budget" CD!). The best part of this performance is that the overall conception of the work is exciting rather than disturbing. (If you like John Williams' chase music for Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, etc., you'll love this Rite.) Craft's tempos are swift rather than manic, his attack fierce rather than savage. I know this will not please everyone, but if you're looking for an absolutely thrilling account of the Rite, without feeling uneasy and disconcerted throughout the performance, this is your ticket!
The CD also features first-rate performances of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (original 1920 version) and the Cantata for male chorus, Zvezdolikiy. (These two shorter works had been previously released, unlike the brand new Rite and Violin Concerto recordings.)
The real standout on this CD is the marvelous performance of the 1931 neo-classical Violin Concerto by Jennifer Frautschi. Some readers may be unfamiliar with this violinist's work, but I can assure you that she is one of the very best violinists on the scene today. (The booklet notes in this CD quote Robert Craft as saying that Frautschi is one of the three or four best violinists on the scene today, period, so you don't have to take my word for it!) Frautschi's performance of the concerto captures all of the spiky rhythms of the outer movements, which sound taut and exciting in her hands (with Craft's expert conducting, of course). Frautschi is able to produce just the right pungent tone that Stravinsky wanted for these movements, without sounding grating or harsh as so many violinists do. It is her performance of the luxurient and lyrical inner movements (called "Aria I" and "Aria II" by Stravinsky) that catches the listener's ears and doesn't let go. You really have to hear the beautiful, warm, and expressive sound that she brings to these movements to understand what I mean. When you do, you will surely run out and buy her other recordings. (I'd recommend starting with her unbeatable Prokofiev Concertos CD.) The recording has the violin in close focus, enabling the listener to hear all the wonderful details of Frautschi's playing, without in any way obscuring the wonderful orchestral contribution. (Both the Classicstoday and the All Music Guide reviews noted that this CD is a must-buy due to Frautschi's outstanding performance of the Violin Concerto.)
In sum, this CD is an absolute MUST-OWN for Stravinsky fans, 20th century orchestral music fans (including fans of symphonic film scores), and fans of the violin. This CD really does earn its title as a fitting tribute to Stravinsky's 125th birth anniversary. Don't hesitate: buy this CD now!"
Excellent Stravinsky Disc!!!
Louie Bourland | Garden Grove CA | 08/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With 2007 being the 125th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky's birth, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than with this aptly titled CD from Naxos.
Three of works on this disc are immortal Stravinsky classics while the fourth work, a short choral piece entitled "Zvezdolikiy", is a rarely performed piece in the composer's vast catalog.
All of the music included here is conducted by long-time Stravinsky associate Robert Craft and he does an excellent job in interpreting his late mentor's masterpieces here (as he does on the other Stravinsky discs for Naxos).
The violin concerto with Jennifer Frautschi as soloist is nothing short of breathtaking and is full of beauty and emotion. On a personal note, this CD marks the first time I have heard the violin concerto in its entirety and I had to listen to immediately play it a second time because of its awe-striking power.
The "Symphonies of Wind Instruments" is also moving with its dense harmonies and serene lushness.
Then there is, of course, Stravinsky's all-time greatest work "The Rite Of Spring" presented here in a fresh new recording of its final 1967 revision. While there are some subtle differences between the original 1913 version and this one, they're not very noticable at all unless you play a recording of the 1913 version back to back with this one. Craft definitely brings out the piece's shock value and hard hitting power in this recording and provides another definitive recording of this monumental masterwork - one that rival's Leonard Bernstein's 1972 London Symphony recording and Stravinsky's own 1961 Columbia recording.
The liner notes included with the disc (also penned by Robert Craft) are highly informative and give an excellent insight to the music especially "The Rite of Spring" which is given a year by year, month by month chronology into its creation and history.
With all this said, Naxos' "125th Anniversary Album" of Stravinsky masterworks is a definite must for the avid Stravinsky afficianado. This is more than just music - it's a genuine celebration. Igor Stravinsky was definitely a genius of the 20th century and I can't think of a better way to commemorate it than with this disc (as well as anything that Stravinsky himself has conducted).