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

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: Symphony in Three Movements; Symphony in C; Symphony of Psalms
PERFORMER: Berlin Radio Choir; Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 207 6300

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These recordings of Stravinsky’s three mature symphonies are carefully considered, well-paced, played with energy and bloom in a focused and spacious recorded acoustic. Maybe the orchestral piano is a little too spot lit in the outer movements of the Symphony in Three Movements; arguably the basses of the Berlin Radio Choir could come through a little more distinctly in the Symphony of Psalms; certainly there should have been a retake for the split second trumpet A near the end of the third movement of the Symphony in C. However, such minor blemishes would hardly matter if something more vital were not lacking. Put on the opening paragraph of the Symphony in Three Movements. This is forceful enough, but where is urgency and menace; where, above all, that knife-edge precision of articulation – that capacity to attack a chord smartly then instantly to rein back so that the ensuing sonority seems to vibrate with contained nervous energy – which Stravinsky could bring to even his roughest performances? Compared with the Stravinskyan zest of Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra on what remains the best all-round coupling of these three works, Rattle’s account of the opening to the Symphony in C sounds merely correct. Maybe the authentic dryness and wit are outside the range of the Berlin Philharmonic. And yet the slow movements of both the Symphony in Three Movements and the Symphony in C are beautifully done, and while not everyone will take to Rattle’s very slow pace for the culminating rapture of the Symphony of Psalms, the gentle effulgence of the massed winds of the Berlin PO is a wonder to hear. As a backup choice, the disc has much to offer. Bayan Northcott