Stravinsky: Les noces; Mass; Cantata

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: Les noces; Mass; Cantata
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Susan Parry (mezzo-soprano), Vsevolod Grivnov, Jan Kobow (tenor), Maxim Mikhailov (bass); RIAS Chamber Choir; MusikFabrik/Daniel Reuss
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 801913
Stravinsky loathed superimposed ‘expressiveness’, and always insisted his music should be executed rather than interpreted. On that basis, this latest release from the RIAS Chamber Choir of Berlin Radio comes up pretty well. The Chamber Choir’s pitches are true and focused, rhythms crisp, textures clean, and in the jubilant wedding cantata-ballet Les noces that marked the culmination of Stravinsky’s early Russian period there is a clear and spacious sound balance with its accompanying ensemble of four pianos and percussion.

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Just occasionally, a slight lurch in tempo suggests the recording was put together in the same modular patches as Stravinsky composed the score and perhaps the reading lacks the last degree of physical excitement of Leonard Bernstein’s still dynamic-sounding DG recording of 1977 (recently deleted, alas, but worth looking out for). Bernstein also used boys’ voices for the upper parts in his coupling of the Mass, as Stravinsky preferred, but adopted excessively slow tempos. Daniel Reuss is almost casually fast in the Kyrie; well-judged elsewhere, but the accompanying MusikFabrik wind ensemble is a

little soft-grained in articulation.

The best all-round recent coupling of the Mass and the Cantata, by the Netherlands Chamber Choir under Reinbert de Leeuw on Philips, with Ian Bostridge plangent in the Cantata, has also been deleted.

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Yet the cooler approach and more recessed sound of the RIAS recording fits the Cantata’s ritual impersonality and repetitiveness just as convincingly and the solos are lucidly sung by Carolyn Sampson and Jan Kobow. All in all, this disc should not disappoint. Bayan Northcott