Santa Fe Listener | 03/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here's a disc to give you spring fever. Based on music by Pergolesi and other 18th century Italian composers, Pulcinella is a light ballet score for chamber orchestra and also includes parts for three vocalists. Stravinsky's best tunes are the ones he borrowed and the tunes in Pulcinella are no exception. Of course, not knowing the original source material makes this work seem even more fanciful. Salonen keeps the orchestra on its toes with playing that is deliciously pointed but not hard-driven and every opportunity is taken to color the music in the right way. The solo singing is excellent with John Tomlinson's booming bass adding wonderful drollery. Ragime and Renard are melodically dryish but delightfully inconsequential works. Renard is a kind of nonsensical stage work for three male vocalists and small orchestra. The Octet for Winds includes some brilliant writing and is given an equally brilliantly performance. The recordings are superb."
A Little Light Music from Stravinsky and Friends
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Taken as a sampler of the witty aspect of Stravinsky this CD is quite good. Esa-Pekka Salonen has been a champion of Stravinsky's entire output for years now and even in this recording dating back to 1990 his affinity for Stravinsky's idiom is secure. The 'Ragtime' is especially droll and the "Renard the Fox" (called a burlesque tale in song and dance) is taken seriously enough for the comedy to come forth. The 'Octet' for wind instruments is given an excellent reading.
It is the 'Pulcinella' (after Pergolesi and others) is here performed in the 1965 Revised Edition with soprano, tenor and bass with singers who are fine (Yvonne Kenny, John Aler, John Tomlinson), and while the performance is classy, and important to have in the library, the old reliable 1949 Revised Version for instruments alone (cutting out 17 minutes of some of the less interesting passages devoted to voices) remains more satisfying. Again, hearing what fifteen years of growing into scores has done for Salonen's conducting is illuminating. As heard in the recent performance with the LA Phil this music is more humorous, witty, and graceful: part of that may also be the superior forces performing in the LA Phil as opposed to the recording of the London Sinfonietta.
Overall, this is a fine recording to flesh out the twentieth century portion of the music library. Grady Harp, February 2005"
Renard gets 5 stars, the rest is good but not outstanding
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 11/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If every performance of Stravinsky's chamber opera Renard (about a fox getting into the chicken coop) were as good as this one, the work would be as famous as Histoire du Soldat, which is written in the same fairy-tale idiom. The English cast sings in Russian, and they sound funny and parodistic. Salonen conducts as if he thinks the opera is funny, too--rare for this modernist sober-sides. John Aler is outstanding in the tenor part of the foolish rooster. I've heard none beter and will return to this performance often.
The Pulcinella, performed in its full version with vocal soloists, is cool and restrained where the composer's own account, also n Sony, is rude and rollicking. Not many conductors find the key to this apparently simple collection of Italian tunes--I don't think I've been carried away by any performance since Stravinsky's death. In its careful, detailed way, Salonen's is good but no better.
His Octet won't set the world on fire, either. It's precise and cool, as tends to happen with this conductor, a Stravisnky specialist who cleaves close to the composer's "sec" style but with less vitality. A lot more can be done to flavor this wonderful chamber work. Sony's sound is good but nothing special; I don't find in general that they gave the young Salonen the best sonics for his stint in London around this time (1990)."