Igor Stravinsky The Complete Columbia Album Collection is an unprecedented reissue of the complete recordings of his works that Igor Stravinsky made for CBS/American Columbia, bringing together for the very first time on CD all of the mono "Stravinsky conducts Stravinsky" recordings issued in the 1940s and 1950s alongside the more familiar stereo remakes from the 1960s, as well as all the authorized performances that Stravinsky's assistant Robert Craft conducted for the label in the composer's presence, after age and infirmity had restricted his own ability to do so.
Works of Igor Stravinsky is a massive set: 22 CDs of performances of Rite of Spring, Petrouschka, L'Histoire du soldat, Symphony in E-Flat, The Rake's Progress and more under the direction of the composer, with additional performances by his disciple Robert Craft under Stravinsky's supervision, and a disc (the Sympony in E-Flat disc, actually) that includes recordings of rehearsals and Stravinsky discussing his own music.
Is there any doubt that Robert Craft is the reigning Stravinsky conductor of our time? His years of friendship with, apprenticeship to and quasi-adoption by Stravinsky certainly give him bona fides for this, but it is his impeccable musicianship that tells here. These performances have appeared before on CD Jeu de cartes and Danses concertantes on Koch, and the Scènes de Ballet, Variations, and Capriccio on MusicMasters all recorded in the 1990s. Naxos is in the process of re-releasing on their own label all of Craft's Stravinsky recordings of that period (plus a few new ones done specifically for them) and the series is an undiluted triumph.
This Naxos disc is a coupling of two recordings originally issued by Koch. Both the recordings were part of Robert Craft's continuation of the complete Stravinsky edition he had begun on MusicMasters. Craft's second Oedipus Rex is less than entirely compelling. Martyn Hill is a virile Oedipus and Jennifer Lane is a noble Jocasta, but Craft is a bit too restrained in his rhetoric and a tad too reserved in his dramatics.
One of the big events of 2017 was the opening of the Hamburg Philharmonie. Krzysztof Urbański and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra gave inaugural concerts there that made a lasting impact on audiences and critics alike. On this occasion, the Polish conductor chose to record one of the works closest to his heart, The Rite of Spring: "Stravinsky invented a new language. For me, The Rite is not a score, but a painting: on each page, I see Matisse, Gauguin, the Fauve painters . . . It’s an explosion of colours, emotions, and surprises too: if you don’t know the piece, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s so suggestive that you don’t need to do all that much with the orchestra, the magic is written into the music. . .