STRAVINSKY conducts STRAVINSKY: L’Histoire du Soldat; Dumbarton Oaks & others – Pristine Audio

by | Mar 24, 2016 | Classical Reissue Reviews

For Stravinsky enthusiasts, this disc fills an essential gap otherwise omitted in the recorded legacies accumulated over the years. 

STRAVINSKY conducts STRAVINSKY: L’Histoire du Soldat Suite; Violin Concerto in D Major; Jeu de Cartes; Dumbarton Oaks Concerto for Chamber Orchestra in E-flat Major – Marcel Darrieux, violin/ Emil Godeau, clarinet/ Gustave Dherin, bassoon/ Eugene Foveau, cornet/ Raphael Delbos, trombone/ Alphonse-Joseph Delmas, doublebass/ Jean-Paul Morel, percussion (L’Histoire)/ Samuel Dushkin, violin/Lamoureux Orch. (Concerto)/ Berlin Philharmonic Orch. (Jeu de Cartes)/ Dumbarton Oaks Festival Orch./ Igor Stravinsky – Pristine Audio PASC 462, 79:20 [avail. in various formats from] *****:

Producer and Restoration Engineer Mark Obert-Thorn provides the rationale for this collection of Stravinsky’s rare recordings:

The present program might be called “The Uncollected Stravinsky,” as it brings together several items which have been left out of recent reissues of the composer’s recordings, mainly because they were done as “one-offs” for labels with which the composer did not usually record.  We hear here his only recordings for Polydor, Telefunken and Keynote, as well as a French Columbia recording omitted in EMI’s “Composers in Person” series set of CDs devoted to Stravinsky.

If you have this CD and the Mozart download on this [Pristine] webpage, plus Pristine’s two earlier CDs (the one with Stravinsky conducting The Rite of Spring and the Firebird Suite, the other with his conducting the suites from Petrushka and Pulcinella), plus the 57 disc Sony Stravinsky set, plus the two-CD EMI “Composers in Person” Stravinsky release, you will have all of the composer’s commercial recordings. This new release fills in the rest of the gaps.

The suite drawn from the Ramuz adaptation of The Runaway Soldier and the Devil (1918) gives the purely instrumental sections, minus narrator, with the recording made 6-7 May 1932. The transfer from shellacs moves resonantly, without much intrusion to betray its age. The nasal character of the instrumentalists’ contribution conveys the pinched irony that suffuses the score, another Faustian tale with twists, ending with the soldier Joseph’s crossing a frontier and the Devil’s Dance intertwining violin and percussion most inventively. Eugene Foveau’s active trumpet consistently catches my ear, especially in “The Little Concert.” Years ago, Juan Ramirez, the Atlanta virtuosi, and I (I was narrator in all parts) staged a full version as part of the “Music in the Marketplace” concept. The many demands – especially metric – upon the ensemble in the “Three Dances” became apparent to me.

Stravinsky’s four-movement 1931 Violin Concerto (rec. 28-29 October 1935 for Polydor) features its inspirational soloist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976) and the Lamoureux Orchestra, issued on Vox (VLP 6340).  Dushkin had at first thought the essential chord impossible to play; but having mastered it, Dushkin earned “the passport to perform the concerto.” The initial chord reappears in various guises throughout the work. Despite the tasks imposed upon the performer, the Violin Concerto retains an intimate chamber-music character in neo-classical style. Given the incisive character of Dushkin’s sound, it becomes a puzzle why he did not collaborate with Koussevitzky on the Concerto for an American inscription, as well for readings of the Prokofiev concertos.

The music for the 1937 ballet Jeu de cartes likely needs the visuals of George Balanchine’s choreography for the antics of the Joker and the other principals of the “three deals” to make sense. Stravinsky inscribed this work (for French Polydor) with the Berlin Philharmonic 19 and 21 February 1938, which may suggest a miracle in itself, given the National Socialist dread of “decadent music.” To a degree, the score shares impulses with the earlier Pulcinella ballet, but it lacks the zesty flavor the former piece had as a scintillating transmutation of Pergolesi originals. Furtwaengler once referred to Stravinsky as “the man of the moment but not of the future.”

Benefactors Robert and Mildred Bliss commissioned the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in 1937 for their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Under the spells of both the Bliss estate and of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos, Stravinsky created a crisp and transparent score that tends to quote Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Stravinsky suffered at the time the throes of his eldest daughter’s losing battle with tuberculosis, and so did not officially inscribe the work until 28 May 1947. The perky score testifies to Stravinsky’s gift as a musical chameleon, absorbing Baroque style – and a bit Verdi’s Falstaff – for his own designs. More than clever, the score projects an easy grace and ironic finish, gently affectionate in its ironic homage.

—Gary Lemco

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