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Stravinsky: Symphonies / Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin PO, et al

Album Summary

>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony in Three Movements
>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony of Psalms
>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony in C
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Most people know Igor Stravinsky through his magnificent ballet scores, but as Sir Simon Rattle says: "If you know only 'Firebird', 'Petrushka', the 'Rite of Spring', and nothing more, you have only a little tiny portion of Stravinsky's output. And so you can get completely staggered by what you come across throughout his life." In this new recording, Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker take on three of Stravinsky's "neoclassical" symphonies.

Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky Recorded Live in September 2007. The album comprises three of the five works by Stravinsky which contain the word `symphony' in their titles, including the Symphony in C which Sir Simon has never before performed and which the BPO haven't played for over 20 years. EMI. 2008.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
The Symphony in Three Movements doesn't so much start as erupt and Sir Simon Rattle's second recording of it has impressive immediacy, richer tonally than his rougher-edged 1980s recording with the CBSO, but textually warmer and with more refined solos. Interesting points of comparison arise at around 4'00" into the first movement (chamber-like textures involving strings and winds) and the serene passage for strings and harp at 2'08" into the second movement, the relative earnestness of the earlier version replaced here by a true but 'terrible beauty'.

In comparison with conductors like Boulez and Gielen, Rattle offers the most polished option, mindful of both mood and structure and beautifully engineered, but don't forget Stravinsky's own 1946 (New York Philharmonic) version, which reflects a new-born masterpiece in the heat of its creation.

Rattle's Symphony of Psalms is very sensitively traced, with a rowdy account of the reveille-style 'Laudate Dominum' passage in the last movement. However, the real highlight of this CD is Rattle's pressing but never impatient account of what in my view is Stravinsky's greatest symphony, the terse and poignant Symphony in C, music forged in the wake of illness and death but that only ever suggests anguish, never confesses it.

Tchaikovsky's spirit looms large, especially in the first movement, at the onset of the angry central climax where Rattle and his Berliners achieve considerable intensity. Rattle focuses each episode without sounding episodic and shapes the Larghetto's opening most poetically. Stravinsky himself is faster and lighter (especially on his second, stereo, recording) but Rattle gives us both urgency and tonal body. Henceforth, his is a digital front-runner. (And if purchased as a download, a finely observed account of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments is thrown in as a generous bonus.)

The Telegraph - Matthew Rye
As one might expect from these forces, the asceticism of neo-Classical Stravinsky plays second fiddle to the orchestra's natural plushness. But while the textures sound a little weightier than we are used to, Simon Rattle's mastery in orchestral balancing ensures that nothing is compromised. There is some delectable playing here, especially from the woodwind in the Bachian counterpoint at the heart of the Symphony of Psalms, where the Berlin Radio Chorus also excels. And the richness of sound does nothing to dampen the rhythmic vitality that is at the heart of the two purely instrumental works

The Telegraph
The Berliners are adept at finding exactly the right mode for each work - perkily antiquated for the Symphony in C, muscular and athletic for the Symphony in Three Movements and intense for the Symphony of Psalms. I wasn't sure Simon Rattle could do spiritual, but here he proves he can.

The Guardian
Rattle's performances, all taken from concerts in Berlin's Philharmonie, are as energised and impeccably played as one would expect, with the woodwind contributions a particular delight. Predictably, it's the last of the trilogy, the stark Symphony in Three Movements from 1946, that makes the biggest impression, with Rattle channelling its energy and athleticism uncompromisingly. Yet all three works have a litheness and confidence, a perfect balance between the sections, and, in the Symphony of Psalms, between the orchestra and the superbly groomed choir, that give the music a transparent, "classical" feel. Rattle's performance of the Symphony of Psalms gets the balance between celebratory exuberance and liturgical grandeur exactly right, releasing the energy of the finale in a controlled display of orchestral virtuosity.

Sunday Times
Rattle gives [the woodwind] Mozartian prominence above the transparent strings, and this is music to which the British conductor brings a special empathy. In the Psalm settings, the Rundfunkchor Berlin, now under Simon Halsey, give exemplary accounts of their music. These are luxury interpretations in every sense, sumptuously recorded.

BBC Music Magazine
The slow movements of both the Symphony in Three Movements and the Symphony in C are beautifully done.



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Works Details

>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony in Three Movements
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (09/20/2007-09/22/2007)
  • Running Time: 22 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1945
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony of Psalms
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Ensemble: Berlin Radio Chorus
  • Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (09/20/2007-09/22/2007)
  • Running Time: 22 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1930
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Stravinsky, Igor : Symphony in C
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (09/20/2007-09/22/2007)
  • Running Time: 30 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1940
  • Studio/Live: Live