Masaaki Suzuki conducts Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite; Apollon Musagète and Concerto in D

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky
WORKS: Pulcinella Suite; Apollon Musagète; Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Tapiola Sinfonietta/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2211 (hybrid CD/SACD)  

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After so much Bach, neo-classical Stravinsky is a natural step for Masaaki Suzuki’s first orchestral recording. The only surprise is the absence of the Bach-inspired Dumbarton Oaks Concerto, though there are no complaints about the combination of works here. The Pulcinella Suite, Apollon Musagète and Concerto in D not only span Stravinsky’s middle period, but also reveal contrasting facets of his creative impulses. There is much to admire here, with flowing lines throughout, giving elegance to the lilting sections of Pulcinella and imbuing much of Apollon Musagète with a suitable stylishness. The latter’s ‘Pas de deux’ is especially affecting, while Suzuki and the Tapiola Sinfonietta make the Arioso of the Concerto in D an attractively unassuming passage of sustained reflection.

Nonetheless, this easy-going poise is both a strength and a weakness, for it has a tendency to smooth the edges of Stravinsky’s rhythms. The ‘Sinfonia’ of Pulcinella has more of a genial swing than a bright-eyed kick, while the Concerto in D starts with a polite enquiry rather than a declaration of intent. Inner parts have a tendency to tread water, and Polymnie’s variation in Apollon Musagète is decidedly sedate rather than vibrantly elated. The stereo recording has a pleasing bloom, but something has also gone awry in the surround mix. It certainly gives a feeling of acoustic space, but it is that of an aircraft hangar with the orchestra down the other end. Even close-up, though, there is sadly only an intermittent sense of involvement with Suzuki’s Stravinsky.

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Christopher Dingle