Stravinsky: Le baiser de la fée; Apollon musagète

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Telstar Revelation
WORKS: Le baiser de la fée; Apollon musagète
PERFORMER: Grand SO of Radio & Television/ Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: RV 10052 ADD mono/stereo
Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) is Stravinsky’s loving homage to Tchaikovsky. Composed in 1928, it is a substantial ballet score, based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, worked up from fragments of Tchaikovsky’s piano pieces and songs. So completely did Stravinsky immerse himself in their idiom that later he was not always sure where his borrowings ended and his original composition began.

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Rozhdestvensky’s 1960 recording is a fascinating document of the period when Stravinsky’s music was beginning to be played again in Russia, after many years of official disapproval. Conductor and orchestra obviously respond to the many affinities between Stravinsky’s score and Tchaikovsky’s own ballets, with lively, well-turned string and woodwind playing. But at the climax, based on the song ‘None but the lonely heart’, the deliberate pace and the braying trumpet-playing emphasise Tchaikovskian emotion at the cost of Stravinskian elegance. This is a studio recording, with distant but acceptable stereo sound. But there is only mono for the coupling, a rather more heavy-footed reading of the strings-only ballet Apollon musagète.

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On Vol. 2 of his Stravinsky series for Koch, the composer’s long-time assistant Robert Craft displays a calm authority which all too frequently eluded him in his previous series of Stravinsky recordings for MusicMasters in New York. The Fairy’s Kiss is affectionately paced and shaped, with immaculate, well-characterised playing from the LSO, and first-rate sound. The coupling is an exemplary reading of the lucidly beautiful 1947 ballet score Orpheus. The booklet includes useful notes by Craft on both works, though it is a pity his synopsis of The Fairy’s Kiss does not match the inaccurate track listings.