ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: The Soldier’s Tale – Suite; Octet; Les noces
PERFORMER: Rebecca Nash (soprano), Robynne Redmon (mezzo), Robert Breault (tenor), Denis Sedov (bass); Virginia Symphony Chorus; Les Noces Percussion Ensemble; Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573538
As with the complete, theatrical version of The Soldier’s Tale from which I presume the numbers which make up the suite were taken (reviewed in the May 2016 issue), none of these Virginian performances is quite wild enough, and that problem ultimately rests with the clear-headed bur rather safe conductor, JoAnn Falletta. I still want to hear more Klezmer swagger for the soldier and the devil, though the sophistication of Tianwa Yang’s solos, especially in the Tango, repays repeated listening and the instrumental blend in the bittersweet ‘Pastorale’, led by a luminous clarinet (Ricardo Morales) is especially subtle. Excellent work, too, from two different trumpeters and the same trombonist in the Octet. But the central Theme and Variations simply isn’t volatile enough.
The most impressive of the mini-trilogy is Les Noces (aka Svadebka), Stravinsky’s dizzying collage of a peasant wedding. Despite open vowels, the chorus is a bit pale, sounding more like a school choir, which can be sweet. The Russian-flavoured steel of the four soloists, though, gives them backbone; soprano Rebecca Nash and tenor Robert Breault are outstanding, while bass Denis Sedov puts heart and soul into the moving final declamation. The pianos and percussion glint in well-balanced textures, with artistic xylophone tone. Though the climactic feast doesn’t go as crazy as it does with either Gergiev or Bernstein, this is a clear and enlightening performance, companionable enough at the price.