Jurowski conducts Stravinsky, Vol. 1: Symphony in E flat; The Faun and the Shepherdess*; Scherzo Fantastique; Funeral Song; The Firebird; The Rite of Spring
*Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
LPO LPO-0123 146:13 mins (2 discs)
‘You have to start somewhere,’ Debussy told Stravinsky at the 1910 premiere of The Firebird. The first disc on this set, recordings taken from Vladimir Jurowski’s excellent series of Stravinsky-related concerts with what was then still his London Philharmonic Orchestra, offers earlier ‘somewheres’, all of them full of personality, if not always the composer’s own. While The Firebird marks the end of a Russian fairy-tale tradition and the emergence of Stravinsky as we know him, the Symphony in E flat is a Disney theme-park of obvious homages: Glazunov in the first, Borodin in the scherzo and finale, Tchaikovsky in the slow movement’s tragic vein. The melodies are strong, the workings-through less so; Jurowski plays it straight and clear. Talented young Angharad Lyddon offers convincingly Slavic mezzo-contralto tone in playful Pushkin settings; the Scherzo fantastique – perhaps the first masterpiece – is a pointillist delight; and it’s good to hear another conductor taking up the fairly recently unearthed Funeral Song, a cortege of instrumental colours for Stravinsky’s beloved mentor Rimsky-Korsakov.
Detail is strong in The Firebird, though muted horn and offstage trumpet can’t easily be heard (brass recession can be a problem). The Rite of Spring is assured from the start, woodwind timbres gleaming, polyrhythms spectacularly clear in ‘Procession of the Sage’, with a few rapid surprises – ‘Spring Rounds’ and a fair bit of the second part; I’d certainly want to hear it again.