WORKS: Pulcinella; Renard; Suite No. 1 for small orchestra; Suite No. 2 for small orchestra; Ragtime
PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore (mezzo-soprano), John Aler, Frank Kelley (tenor), Jan Opalach, John Cheek (bass); St Paul CO/Hugh Wolff
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94548-2 DDD
‘Pulcinella was my discovery of the past… the first of many love affairs in that direction.’ Stravinsky’s obvious affection for the music by Pergolesi and others which inspired Pulcinella is always worth keeping in mind when listening to this most good-humoured of ballets.
Hugh Wolff and his expert American orchestra phrase the more beguiling numbers with great charm, and give a highly polished account of the score’s many tricky corners. All three soloists sing well; bass Jan Opalach is the most memorable. Teldec’s recording was made – not inappropriately – in a theatre, and is admirably detailed.
It’s certainly acoustically preferable to the Naxos disc, which captures the solo strings and singers at the expense of the woodwind and brass. Stefan Sanderling’s interpretation also lacks warmth, and creates little sense of fun or excitement in the quicker numbers. His account of the later Danses concertantes is somewhat better, though I far preferred Wolff’s choice of the Ragtime, Renard and the two Suites as companions.
Renard is sung in Hugh Wolff’s own intermittently successful English version, which may not be to all tastes. But if you don’t have Stravinsky’s own recordings of these works (available in reasonably priced boxed sets in Sony’s Stravinsky Edition), I strongly recommend you invest in those first. Stephen Maddock