Igor Stravinsky (1982-1971, Russian)

….needs no introduction, but one thing I can say is that, other than all the reasons I have to love the music of Stravinsky, one thing that I love about the music of Stravinsky is that, whatever the dramatic changes of musical styles that he exercised, the music always remains unmistakably Stravinsky’s, as much The Rite of Spring as The Rake’s Progress as Threni. I like it all: the Russian Ballets, The Soldier’s Tale, the neo-classical works (the concertos including the Ebony Concerto written for Woody Hermann, the symphonies, the Piano pieces, the many ballets), The Rake’s Progress (one of the greatest 20th-century operas in my opinion), and the late serial pieces with a special prediliection for the stern cantata In Memoriam Dylan Thomas.

Oh, and one more thing: I am a member of the camp that says that Stravinsky was the greatest conductor of his own works. The other camp, spearheaded by Boulez, claims that he couldn’t conduct, that the orchestras were rehearsed by his assistant Robert Craft and that when he stepped on the podium Stravinsky just waved the stick until the piece was finished. This is conspicuous libel. There are many examples to show that Stravinsky knew exactly how he wanted his music to sound (great clarity of textures, concerto-grosso-like staccato, pungency of instrumental timbres) and knew exactly how to obtain it from the orchestras. I’m not saying that his recordings of the Concertos (with Stern, Entremont, Rosen and Benny Goodman) and Symphonies, or The Rake’s Progress, or In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, haven’t been equalled: but I do contend that they’ve rarely been surpassed.

And with that, so far Stravinsky is represented on this website only by one recording of his Three Pieces for solo clarinet from 1919, by Ensemble Intercontemporain’s clarinetist Alain Damiens, on a recital CD from 1988 with contemporary works for solo clarinet by Boulez, Denisov, Stockhausen, Donatoni and Berio, Adda 851066 (reissues by Accord). Well, that could be my own (Rake’s) progress in reviewing recordings of Stravinsky’s music: start with the solo instruments (in fact, I have reviewed a number of CDs of his piano music, but need to transfer them from Amazon), then the chamber ensembles, and move only at the end to the hugest orchestral settings and operas.

Only jesting. Other than the piano music, I’ve posted on Amazon, over the years, a number of reviews of the concertos (including Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and Concerto in D) and of The Soldier’s Tale.

Comments are welcome