Stravinsky Petrushka; Jeu de cartes
Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Mariinsky MAR 0594 (hybrid CD/SACD) 57:51 mins
Although Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in one of Stravinsky’s Russian ballets should be the main draw here, Jeu de cartes steals the show. The choreographed ‘Card Game in three deals’ was written for George Balanchine to show off his recently-formed American Ballet in 1937. One of Stravinsky’s most playful and attractive scores, it curiously after initial success has become a relative rarity. This vivacious performance projects the music’s neoclassical lines cleanly, while avoiding sterility. Gergiev’s lightness of touch enables the wit to sparkle, especially in the contrasting variations of the ‘Second Deal’, all captured in superb surround sound.
A pity, then, that Petrushka is periodically scrappy and does not match its protagonist in springing to life. There is spirit to the final scene’s fight, but walking around the Shrovetide fair is decidedly pedestrian. Nor does it help that the competing textures of the opening, and various later passages, are mired in a boomy, ill-focused recording. In all, it’s a decent if unspectacular account of a work where the bar is set very high. Yet it is certainly adequate as a substantial filler for a splendid Jeu de cartes.