Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Igor Stravinsky, Royal Philharmonic, Colin Tilney|
Stravinsky: Rake's Progress
This is the original postmodern opera: Igor Stravinsky, in an unlikely collaboration with W.H. Auden, resurrected the centuries-old formulas of opera buffa and delivered a parodistic commentary on them at the same time.... more »
Amazon.com essential recording
This is the original postmodern opera: Igor Stravinsky, in an unlikely collaboration with W.H. Auden, resurrected the centuries-old formulas of opera buffa and delivered a parodistic commentary on them at the same time. Composed in 1951, and based on William Hogarth's satirical engravings A Rake's Progress (published in 1735), this virtuosic three-act comedy is one of the indisputable masterpieces of 20th-century opera, a fresh and unique fusion of familiar musical, theatrical, and scenic elements with a wild libretto and a vivacious score in Stravinsky's most scintillating neoclassical idiom. Recorded in London in 1964--with the composer conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the chorus of Sadler's Wells (he was then 82)--this account remains the standard by which others must be judged. The performance is vital and wickedly dry, with first-class singing from a cast that includes Judith Raskin as Anne Truelove and John Reardon as Nick Shadow. --Ted Libbey
Stravinsky conducts (amazingly) his operatic masterpiece.
darragh o'donoghue | 11/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The culmination of Stravinsky's adventures in (neo)neo-classicism, 'The Rake's Progress' is its apotheosis and reductio ad absurdum, concluding with a (forlorn and moving) asylum burlesque of classicism. After Wagner (whose redemption-through-love-and-death histrionics he wickedly parodies) had struggled painfully to eliminate the artificial formalism of opera to create homogenous globs of music drama, Stravinsky promptly and brazenly replaces them, and structures his work with a strict succession of instrumental preludes, arias, recitatives, duets, ensembles and finales, with each individual unit similarly constructed. But this isn't mere pastiche - although the style, instrumentation, even orchestration and pace, are very similar to the Baroque and Classical eras, there is a violence constantly pushing to the edge of dissonance that would have startled Handel or Mozart (although there are already hints of it in Haydn), not to mention the winking playfulness with which Stravinsky treats his material.Although the competition is negligible, 'Progress' is the most enjoyable of all 20th century operas, with the bright, restless, almost impudent musical wit matched by an exquisitely literary libretto co-written by Auden, brimming with the authentic, self-conscious, lethally articulate language of the time, the familiar tropes, the 'theatricalising' of life, the ready wit, the fashions, the stolid morality, the use of names as typology (Rakewell, Nick Shadow, Truelove), the appeal of foreign novelties - this is a world more familiar from the novels and art of the period (Stravinsky's inspiration was a series of paintings by Hogarth) than its operas. But it is another 18th century phenomenon that unexpectedly drives 'Progress', the Gothic, with a hero whose servant is a devil, and who must pay his reckoning with his soul. I generally tend towards the hyperbolic, but I think I can safely say that there is no scene in the whole of opera (or theatre) like the climax of 'Progress', in which ruined master and diabolic servant play cards for the former's soul in a nocturnal cemetary, overlooking his freshly dug grave. The harpsichord, for centuries a mere accompanying instrument in opera, takes centre stage here, its menacing house-of-horror thinness, and the intolerable distension of the scene are unforgettably nerve-scraping.This recording was made by Stravinsky himself in 1964 at the age of 82. There is no reason to automatically prefer a composer's own interpretation of his work, especially at such an age: he is just as distant from his original intentions as any fresh outsider. No, this set is essential because Stravinsky happens to be an awesome conductor, his touch defiantly sprightly, humorous and aggressive, opening up the score and text (remember, he was once a Harvard professor of poetry), and their never-ending mine of meanings and emotions. The singers, not even listed on the box, are clearly subordinate to the maestro and his work, generously down-playing any egotistical flourishes that would destroy its delicate formal balance - they are 'mere' instruments in the hands of the greatest writer and orchestrator of instruments the last century knew.(The booklet includes a fascinating essay by the composer detailing the conception of and intentions behind the opera, his collaboration with Auden (complete with the poet's endearingly humble fan-letter), and his answer to criticisms in and admissions of (perceived) flaws in the work)."
One of the great operas in English
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 07/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, I am a huge fan of Stravinsky's music and I love this opera. Auden and Kallman wrote the libretto from an idea Stravinsky had from seeing some Hogarth etchings of the same name. The story is not that of the Hogarth etchings except in the broadest sweep.This version was prepared and performed under supervision by Stravinsky and Robert Craft. It is stil the standard version and is very much worth owning and hearing again and again. Don't ignore the Gardiner or the Craft recordings or the others. But I think it is good to start here and use this as the base version. The singing is very fine and moving. I hope the prejudice against neo-classicism that was rampant in the fifties, sixties, and even into the seventies, has run its course and this music can be better appreciated. This is great music and I am so glad to enjoy it and in many versions. I hope it continues to get many live performances as well. This great work deserves to be in the repertoire."
Avoid all imitations
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with all the praise heaped on this recording and only want to say that for me there really is no alternative. Having owned and listened to the Chailly, Craft, Nagano, Ozawa, and Gardiner versions, I can say that they were all seriously inferior in one way or another, so much so that only this reading is consistently worth hearing ovre and over again."