WORKS: The Firebird Suite; Symphony in Three Movements; Jeu de cartes
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Craft
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7472-2
The first three volumes of Robert Craft’s cycle of Stravinsky recordings received a fairly dismal review in this magazine earlier this year. But that was another reviewer, and the reader will, I hope, welcome BBC Music Magazine’s plurality of opinions when I maintain that this Vol. IV is actually rather good. The Symphony in Three Movements, which Craft has commented ‘caught on quickly, and maybe grew stale even more quickly’, sounds remarkably unstale in his rendition, the orchestral playing lucid and well marshalled. Craft’s scholarly preciseness, for which he is sometimes taken to task, are a positive asset, even more so in elucidating the tightly structured rhythms of Jeu de cartes, one of Stravinsky’s sunniest and most consistently cheerful scores – which perhaps says something about the composer’s attitude to gambling.
As on previous discs in the series, the neo-classical works fare better, and in the Firebird Suite one could do with the effortless fluidity and agility of Stravinsky’s own recorded version. Under Craft, the Philharmonia is apt to sound raucous in the more furious movements, the ‘Infernal Dance’ especially, and do not offer anything to equal the tenderness of the Columbia SO under Stravinsky in the ‘Khorovod’ section or the ‘Berceuse’. These cavils notwithstanding, the disc is certainly worth having for the Symphony and Jeu de cartes. In the latter, Craft coaxes from the Philharmonia some fine performances, and in the process argues convincingly for the merits of one of Stravinsky’s more tranquil and unhysterical ballet scores. Christopher Wood