WORKS: The Fairy’s Kiss; The Faun and the Shepherdess; Ode
PERFORMER: Lucy Shelton (mezzo-soprano) Cleveland Orchestra/Oliver Knussen
CATALOGUE NO: 449 205-2
The Fairy’s Kiss, Stravinsky’s longest ballet score, is his homage to the muse of Tchaikovsky. The whole piece is an affectionate pastiche, largely based on Tchaikovsky’s piano pieces and songs (including the well known ‘None but the Lonely Heart’), yet such is the skill with which this large-scale act of kleptomania is carried out that there is scarcely a single bar that is not instantly recognisable as Stravinsky’s own.
More echt, but much less characteristic, is The Faun and the Shepherdess, a setting of erotic verses by Pushkin. This was Stravinsky’s gift to his wife on their honeymoon – one of his very earliest compositions, and a piece which he later admitted ‘sounds like Stravinsky not at all, or only through thickly bespectacled hindsight’. As for the orchestral Ode, written in memory of Natalie Koussevitzky, its middle movement began life as would-be Hollywood film music, intended for a scene in the 1944 version of Jane Eyre, starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. There are echoes of another memorial piece, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, though the Ode does not strive after the same air of ritual mourning.
This is a splendidly played and recorded disc, and no one interested in the byways of Stravinsky’s output should fail to explore it. Misha Donat