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.
Long admired for her powerful playing and respected as a champion of new music, Anne-Sophie Mutter is the recipient of numerous pieces composed especially for her by the leading contemporary masters. Henri Dutilleux wrote his nocturne for violin and orchestra, Sur le même accord, for Mutter, and this live, world-premiere recording of the debut performance demonstrates why composers trust her with their music.
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.
The Sixteen, bright stars of the Baroque, have plenty to say on 20th-century repertoire (witness their excellent Britten series on Collins). Underpin them with the BBC Philharmonic and it might seem a magic formula. Ives’s unearthly The Unanswered Question holds few problems for instrumental players weaned on Maxwell Davies – no more than do the brilliant wind roulades of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Deft BBC teamwork and a chamber articulation to woodwind and brass helps this Koussevitzky-commissioned masterpiece to shed its often hammy ‘big band’ sound, creeping closer to the subtle, leaner sonorities of his later choral works. It gains. The singing varies. Too many dynamic shifts sound prosaic or under-prepared; fortes are forced, with muddy results. The vocal blend (happier in lower voices) can seem haphazard and colours the Tippett, where the men’s roars – contrast the lovely, sensual soprano solo – seem crude. Get this disc, instead, for the rare, late Poulenc – his New York-commissioned Sept répons. It is a curiously under-recorded devotional work, bleeding with pathos yet pumping energy, its exoticism enhanced by slightly breathy, tender solos, and scintillatingly sung with just those crucial missing qualities of awe and freshness. A million times more refined than what goes before.