Originally published on July 6
The first of three volumes focusing on Stravinsky’s music conducted by Vladimir Jurowski includes his Opus One, the Symphony in E-flat, unmistakably Russian and that young Igor was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov. It’s a likeable piece, leaning to Borodin in places, confident and imaginative, with a featherlight Scherzo, an intensely eloquent Largo, and a Finale of Imperial swagger, handsomely brought off by the LPO and Jurowski in immediate and clear sound, the very ideal of the Royal Festival Hall. Mezzo Angharad Lyddon is excellent in Faun and Shepherdess, straight out of the Tchaikovsky songbook, and anticipations of the Stravinsky to come (Firebird anyway) surface with Scherzo fantastique, given a buoyant outing, with fantasy and clarity in equal measure. The ‘lost and found’ Funeral Song – interesting because Stravinsky wrote it (in memoriam Rimsky) rather than for its musical worth, although Jurowski finds more than some previous performances (the piece went viral a few years ago). A shame that this first disc does not include Fireworks, Stravinsky’s Opus Four, for then his first five Opuses would be together, although that way of cataloguing his works would cease.
Disc Two couples Firebird (complete) and Rite of Spring. The former’s magical fairy-tale setting is perhaps mitigated against somewhat by the directness of the RFH acoustic, but better this than any fakery being added in post-production – such as reverberation or setting the orchestra at a distance – and anyway there is plenty of detail and characterisation to relish in what can be a long-winded score (the composer’s three Suites are preferable), which Jurowski keeps on the move without glossing over aspects, and the LPO is on well-prepared top form, not least through beguiling woodwind solos. As it is for The Rite, curiously from 2008, ten years before the rest of the contents here, seemingly without an audience, very few coughs and noises-off apparent – no applause anyway – and, although a little reverb is now added and the LPO is slightly further away, what a terrific performance this is, powerful and impactful, wildly fast at times yet without compromising precision and lucidity, all very thrilling, and not short of the quietest dynamics when required.
LPO – 0123 (2 CDs) is released on July 15. The remaining Volumes are keenly anticipated.