Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements; The Soldier’s Tale Suite; Symphony of Psalms

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
WORKS: Symphony in Three Movements; The Soldier’s Tale Suite; Symphony of Psalms
PERFORMER: Bavarian RSO & Chorus/Lorin Maazel
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68470 2
‘Composers combine notes. That is all. How and in what form the things of this world are impressed upon their music is not for them to say.’ Stravinsky’s comments on his Symphony in Three Movements are typical of his famously held opinion that his music was ‘objective’. If you accept this view at face value (and many don’t) then Lorin Maazel is in many ways an ideal Stravinsky interpreter. Certainly in the Symphony – actually one of the composer’s most programmatic works, its outer movements linked with cinematic images of World War II – Maazel secures playing from his fine Bavarian orchestra that is clear and precise, but just a little calculating. He allows himself more warmth in the Andante (intended for a film version of The Song of Bernadette); but when compared with the composer’s own recording – available in Vol. IV of Sony’s indispensable Stravinsky Edition – Maazel comes across as rather dry and humourless, albeit more polished. To some extent the same is true of the Symphony of Psalms, and again Maazel’s speeds are similar to Stravinsky’s own (though I find Maazel’s finale rather too sectionalised). The woodwind playing at the start of the second movement is beautifully judged, and the rich vibrato of the Bavarian Radio Chorus does add an extra expressive level, but it’s a shame RCA was too mean (or forgot) to print the texts. For the music from The Soldier’s Tale (without narration) Maazel takes up his violin, and although the playing is suitably virtuosic I do find it too forceful and lacking in colour or wit. Stephen Maddock