Stravinsky: Dumbarton Oaks; The Soldier's Tale
Quixotic though he can seem, Sir Roger Norrington is not one to embark on a performance without carefully considering his interpretative angle. But it is hard to fathom quite what he is aiming at here. ‘Authenticity’? He duly gets the strings in Dumbarton Oaks (1938) to play without vibrato. But although Stravinsky borrowed certain features from the third Brandenburg Concerto, this is not pastiche Bach. Again, Norrington’s tempos are almost all marginally, sometimes markedly, slower than Stravinsky’s metronome marks, let alone his performances, and while the Zurich Chamber Orchestra plays correctly enough, it is hardly encouraged to project, so that, even when up to speed as at the end, there is a lack of electricity.
Things are a bit livelier in Danses Concertantes (1942), though speeds are still mostly on the slow side, except for a 16-bar chunk of the ‘pas de deux’ where, unaccountably, the tempo suddenly almost doubles – a ‘take’ from a different session, perhaps? And Norrington still takes three minutes longer than Stravinsky’s original 1947 recording for the RCA Victor label – prime ‘authentic’ evidence, surely? The Suite from The Soldier’s Tale (1918) has more presence than the rest and some nifty playing, but Stravinsky’s crackling 1954 mono recording for CBS remains clearer in detail. And it would be interesting to know where the double bass got her pitches in bars 45-47 of the ‘Royal March’; they are not in either edition of the score.