"My music is best understood by children and animals."
Le Rossignol, Renard
(Natalie Dessay, Vsevolod Grivnov, et al.; Paris Opera Chorus and Orchestra; James Conlon, conductor)
Even after the last century, Stravinsky's creative fecundity continues to boggle the imagination. There are still quite a number of gems from this composer that have never received their full due, such as his brief early opera, Le Rossignol, based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and the funny, sly Renard. Hear them both in the lively new recording by James Conlon featuring soprano Natalie Dessay.
Stravinsky: Firebird; The Rite of Spring; Persephone
(San Francisco Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor)
This multiple-nominated set of Stravinsky interpretations packs several punches, for its superb engineering and virtuoso orchestral fire along with the charismatic vision of Michael Tilson Thomas. It is no wonder that "MTT" has helped make the West Coast orchestral scene perhaps the most vital in contemporary American musical life. Having actually worked with Stravinsky as a precocious youngster, he leads some magnificently compelling interpretations of two of the composer's warhorses and of the unjustly neglected Persephone.
Stravinsky: Orpheus, Danses concertantes
(Orpheus Chamber Orchestra)
The conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra offers great
performances of Stravinsky's neoclassical ballets Orpheus
and Danses concertantes on this delightful disc. The
dreamy Orpheus from 1947 is marked by restraint, while the
faster-paced (and punchier) Danses has full-throttle
Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress
(Anne Sofie von Otter, Ian Bostridge, Bryn Terfel, et al.; London Symphony Orchestra, Monteverdi Choir; John Eliot Gardiner, conductor)
Inspired by Hogarth's morality-tale paintings of 18th-century decadence, this is one of the greatest of all 20th-century operas, featuring a particularly brilliant libretto by poet W.H. Auden and some of its composer's most engaging music. Gardiner proves himself the stylistic polymath yet again in a recording on which everything comes together, including a splendid cast featuring Anne Sofie von Otter, Deborah York, and Ian Bostridge.
Symphony of Psalms; Symphony in Three Movements; Symphonies of Wind Instruments
(Berlin Philharmonic; Pierre Boulez, conductor)
Everywhere you turn in the world of music, it seems you bump into Pierre Boulez, as celebrations of the French maestro's career continue on the occasion of his 75th birthday. In more partisan times, Stravinsky was a frequent target of Boulez's scorn and biting slogans, but with the ripe wisdom of age comes a new look. Stravinsky's neoclassical and religiously based works are an odd match for Boulez. This is an intriguing meeting of minds.