Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: The Rake’s Progress
PERFORMER: Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Sylvia McNair, Donald Adams, Paul Plishka, Jane Henschel; Tokyo Opera Singers,Saito Kinen Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 454 431-2
Based on a production of the opera mounted at the 1995 Saito Kinen Festival in Japan (which was inaugurated by Ozawa) this recording represents a clean, well-coordinated performance, with singers and orchestra working in careful balance. Indeed the care may be a bit overweening at times, and one wishes that there were a bit more Hogarthian bite to the proceedings, a bit more sparkle of the actual stage. That said, Sylvia McNair’s silvery vocalism is ideally suited to Anne Trulove, yet her own down-to-earth personality imparts enough humanity into the character to prevent it from lapsing into mere caricature. Anthony Rolfe Johnson, if hardly the most youthful sounding Tom Rakewell, sings the role with such vividness and sensitivity to the text that he disarms all criticism. Paul Plishka’s Nick Shadow is suitably ironic, though the splendid bass-baritone of twenty years ago is now badly marred by a pronounced wobble. There is a note of sadness here, however: Donald Adams’s Trulove represents the swansong of a great Savoyard. Obviously still in fine fettle at 66 when he made this recording, he died last year. Barrymore Laurence Scherer