Liadov, Stravinsky: Stravinsky: Petrushka; Liadov: Baba-Yaga; The Enchanted Lake; Kikimora

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Liadov,Stravinsky
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Stravinsky: Petrushka; Liadov: Baba-Yaga; The Enchanted Lake; Kikimora
PERFORMER: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD195

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It’s difficult to know to what we owe the mild distinction of this release, unless it be to celebrate Thierry Fischer’s good work with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The release certainly doesn’t promote itself with an anonymous abstract cover, the blending of Stravinsky’s ballet with the usual Liadov suspects or the silly back-cover blurb which tells us meaninglessly that ‘these recordings [sic] encapsulate the vivacity and passion of three life-sized puppets, seemingly brought to life’. Actually the vivacity is a little fitful.

I sense Fischer loves the orchestral colours, and as a former flautist highlights those solos or embroideries, all beguilingly played by the BBC NOW principal.

As narrative of a psychopathic puppet driven mad, it doesn’t quite come to life like Jansons’s Concertgebouw performance: the uncredited pianist in ‘Petrushka’s Room’ needs more drive as the soloist Stravinsky originally marked out to do battle with the rest of the orchestra, and the scene with the Moor fails to reach a tense climax.

Natural balances spotlight Fischer’s hard work with textures, and how well he conjures the orchestral harmonica (muted horns do a splendid job on it, courtesy of the unadvertised original version – Signum should make clear this isn’t the 1947 revision).

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The flecks of light over Liadov’s Enchanted Lake are nicely caught, too, though it’s a pity that Baba Yaga’s flight, like Petrushka’s rage, never properly takes off. You’d be pleased to hear these performances in the concert hall, then, or on Radio 3, but I can’t see that in a crowded market they merit CD immortality. David Nice