WORKS: The Firebird; Symphonies of Wind Instruments
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55030 2 DDD
The ballet score that brought Stravinsky overnight international fame in 1910 is often heard in one of three suites of excerpts (dating from 1911, 1919 and 1945) but is easily strong enough to maintain interest when played, as here, complete. Its blend of exotic glamour (derived from Stravinsky’s teacher Rimsky-Korsakov) and languid eroticism (courtesy of Scriabin) with the 28-year-old Stravinsky’s own extraordinary rhythmic vitality, make it not merely a pointer to what was to come but a remarkable achievement in its own right, a work of outstanding flair and variety.
Despite the highly accomplished playing of the London Philharmonic and the generally well engineered sound quality (though it lacks a sharp edge), this is a colourless account of the piece.
Franz Welser-Möst’s interpretation is weak on atmosphere, rarely reinforcing the music’s vital dramatic impetus – indeed at times he undermines it. ‘The Princesses’ Game with the Golden Apples’, for instance, is characterless, though delivered efficiently in purely note-for-note terms. Generally there’s a lack of shape to the melodies and of real emotional involvement with the music.
This sense of detachment is better suited to the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (written in 1920 but invariably played in the revision of 1947), whose coolness and irony are well conveyed. George Hall