Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms; Symphony in C; Symphony in Three Movements

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony of Psalms; Symphony in C; Symphony in Three Movements
PERFORMER: Glen Ellen Children’s Chorus, Chicago SO & Chorus/Georg Solti
CATALOGUE NO: 458 898-2
Ever the pragmatist, Stravinsky composed both the Symphony of Psalms and the Symphony in C ‘to the glory of God’, and dedicated them at the same time to the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, respectively. The first of them, with its unique sonorities (the staccato opening chord alone is enough to identify its composer beyond any doubt), and the haunting ‘Allelujahs’ of its finale, is one of Stravinsky’s authentic masterpieces – at once austere and intensely dramatic. This altogether fine performance was one of Solti’s very last recordings, and there surely could have been no more fitting way for him to bow out.

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The Symphony in C is a rather more impersonal affair, though both the sombre slow introduction – scored for low bassoons and brass alone – to its finale, and its concluding apotheosis, have deep resonance. As for the Symphony in Three Movements, composed in the Hollywood of the early 1940s, much of it sounds disturbingly like self-parody (there are strong echoes of Le Sacre), and its finale is uncharacteristically bombastic. These are virtuoso scores, and they receive appropriate treatment from the Chicago Orchestra, though Solti surely drives the graceful opening movement of the Symphony in C too hard. Misha Donat