WORKS: The Firebird Suite; Symphony in E flat; Scherzo á la russe
PERFORMER: Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 453 434-2
The ninth volume of Robert Craft’s Stravinsky series centres upon what is described as the first recording of the ‘complete original version’ of The Firebird. In comparison with the full ballet score that is generally heard, the differences are minor. No new music is involved, but some textures are clarified, the on-stage instruments are restored and dynamics and tempi are corrected. Craft scrupulously notes all the changes in his copious liner notes.
His performances, too, project that sense of scrupulous adherence to the musical text – sometimes at the expense of physical presence. These are cool, objective performances which never luxuriate in the spangled orchestration of Fireworks or The Firebird. They seem more attuned to the neo-classical Concerto in D and the sparse serialism of the Huxley Variations.
Craft also claims a first recording for the Canon on a Russian Popular Tune. Based on a theme also quoted in The Firebird, it was Stravinsky’s last completed work; but it is included, too, on Mikhail Pletnev’s well played but curiously bloodless collection. Pletnev conducts the familiar 1945 suite from The Firebird, but the main interest is the work that Stravinsky defined as his Op. 1: the E flat Symphony. He composed it between 1905 and 1908 whilst a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov in his native St Petersburg. Busily assimilating the Russian tradition from Borodin to Glazunov, he never characterises its borrowings as vividly as he should. Andrew Clements