Yet another Naxos home run!
Patrick W. Crabtree | Lucasville, OH USA | 07/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Naxos seems to have a knack for seizing upon just the right orchestras to render all the fine compositions that they've recorded and this one is no exception to their terrific track record. Here, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, En Shao conducting, has pulled off a masterwork with three of Igor Stravinsky's major works.
Stravinsky really did not compose many "symphonies" -- in fact, the three works which are so entitled are all right here on this single CD, intricately performed.
The "Symphony in C" (28:41, rendered in four movements) is about as melodic as Stravinsky ever got. It's a flowing tone poem of sorts. Stravinsky wrote this piece after having moved to America (Beverly Hills) between 1938 and 1940. It was first performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stravinsky himself. In the Fourth Movement, I hear reminiscences of "Petrushka," so the work embraces a pseudo-ballet facet as well. It seems strange that this is quite an upbeat composition considering that the Old Maestro had lost his elder daughter, his wife, and his mother all during this tragic period of his life. Of course, these were also the early years of World War II in Europe.
Stravinsky's "Symphony in Three Movements" (22:05) is all about meter and less about tonality -- This music could be used as a filmscore to feature either marching Russian or German forces during a dark periods of World War Two. The work is punctuated with a certain amount of Stravinsky's signature dissonance but not overly so and I think that Shostakovich would have been (and may in fact have been) inspired by this particular composition. The final movement draws from "The Rite of Spring," although I suspect that Stravinsky himself made every effort to refrain from this crutch.
"Symphonies of Wind Instruments" is probably least like a symphony of the three selections. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays the original 1920 version here which is a nice Classical Music collectible to obtain and to listen to. This composition represents the essence of Modern [Classical] Music. The opening notes creep along and draw us further and further into "we don't know where" -- but we do find out eventually that the music runs the realm from upbeat fantasy to some very dark little corners. If the composition is somewhat meager at 8:56 it's still a fine work that I enjoy very much and this is an exceptional rendition.
The total playing time of the CD is 59:42 and it's a DDD recording, played at Lower Hutt Town Hall, Wellington, New Zealand on the 4th and 5th of April, 1995. The CD cover art is a painting by Peter Jando and the excellent liner notes were written by Ates Orga.
Hat's off again to Naxos for bringing us these three well-done and nicely-recorded "symphonies" on a single CD at a great price. All collectors should snag this one."