Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements; Symphony in C; Symphony of Psalms

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: Symphony in Three Movements; Symphony in C; Symphony of Psalms
PERFORMER: WDR Rundfunchor Köln/SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg/Michael Gielen
CATALOGUE NO: 93.183
Stravinsky once claimed that he had spent 40 years as a conductor trying to teach German orchestras how to play staccato and this new disc suggests there is still something in his complaint. Almost all Gielen’s tempos in these three very different works are on the slow side; indeed, the Larghetto of the Symphony in C must be about the slowest on record. In hankering after a weight and depth that are not perhaps there, he sometimes misses the physicality and excitement that abundantly are.

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That said, there is much to commend these performances. If one wants immaculately played and recorded accounts of the Symphony in Three Movements and Symphony of Psalms, then Boulez’s coupling with the Berlin Philharmonic remains the choice. Yet Gielen generates more sense of forceful intent in the outer movements of the Symphony in Three Movements, and Boulez’s relatively fast dispatch of the serene culmination the Symphony of Psalms sounds non-committal compared with Gielen’s numinous rapture.

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The Hänssler recording is clear enough to show up the occasional looseness of ensemble. But given Gielen’s many passing insights this disc merits serious consideration. Bayan Northcott