Stravinsky: Monumentum pro Gesualdo di Venosa; Danses concertantes; Concerto in D; Apollon Musagete

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: ECN
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: Monumentum pro Gesualdo di Venosa; Danses concertantes; Concerto in D; Apollon Musagete
PERFORMER: Stuttgart CO, Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 472 1862
It’s not surprising that Stravinsky was attracted by the ‘wrong-note’ harmonies of Gesualdo, but, as usual, he managed to make the three madrigals which he orchestrated in Monumentum sound like nothing but himself. What the piece doesn’t contain is the rhythmic impetus that’s so much a feature of his work. That comes in the Danses concertantes, where there’s also more than an element of the circus or music hall, with comedy trombone among the participants. Dennis Russell Davies leads a tightly articulated performance, with all the changes of tempo slotting neatly into place. And the clear recording allows the sharpness of the scoring to shine through, with all the solos perfectly balanced in the texture.

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For the rest of the disc, the strings are on their own. The Concerto can come across as weak if the outer movements don’t have enough attack, but there’s no danger of that here. And the central arioso never falls into the trap of sentimentality which lurks in the main theme, and which the plush Karajan doesn’t avoid. Apollon Musagète is the most substantial work on the disc, and the performance is characterised by impeccable balance, lithe phrasing and some effective solo playing, especially from the leader. More than that, it really dances, with lightness and elegance in the variations for Polyhymnia and Terpsichore, and affectionate melodic lines in the ‘Pas de deux’. Stravinsky himself brought a more wiry sound to the music, but the Stuttgart players establish a tonal depth which is equally attractive. Well worth investigating. Martin Cotton