WORKS: Suite No. 1 for Small Orchestra; Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra; Four Norwegian Moods; Concerto for Two Pianos; Renard; Ode; Ragtime; Piano Rag Music; Four Etudes for Piano
PERFORMER: Orchestra of St Luke’s/Robert Craft
CATALOGUE NO: 01612-67110-2 DDD
The ongoing Stravinsky series for the American MusicMasters label supervised and conducted by the composer’s former assistant, Robert Craft, has had a poor reception in some quarters. But I enjoyed this Volume V enormously, not least for its rummaging among the lesser-known works.
Renard, the ‘one-act burlesque’ from 1916, is a highly entertaining rarity inadequately served by Sony’s recently reissued Complete Stravinsky and rivalled only by Mihály on Hungaroton. It is, though, a pity that Drew Martin’s Fox sounds innocent; also that performance and printed libretto (both in English) don’t always tally. The fiendish Concerto for Two Pianos of 1932-5 is scintillatingly played by Mark Wait and Tom Schultz.
Craft’s fast speeds leave even more room for a whole sequence of minor masterpieces. Stravinsky addicts will want the Four Etudes for Piano of 1908, again splendidly performed by Wait, while no one could fail to enjoy the two Suites (1915-17) or the Four Norwegian Moods (1942). The Orchestra of St Luke’s – a New York equivalent to the London Sinfonietta in its exciting early years – is crammed full of marvellous musicians who could probably play this music as well without a conductor. The recordings are first-rate. A life-enhancing disc. Keith Potter