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.
Based on Sophocles' famous tragedy, Stravinsky's grippingly powerful Oedipus Rex represents the pinnacle of his neo-classical style, using the chorus and aria structure of that earlier period to great dramatic effect. Similarly drwing inspiration from classical antiquity, the ballet Apollom musagete evokes the grand French tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries, its two tableaux displaying rich string harmonies and textures that are pleasantly mesmerising, expressive and calmly indulgent.
Igor Stravinsky was one of music's truly epochal innovators; no other composer of the twentieth century exerted such a pervasive influence or dominated his art in the way that Stravinsky did during his seven-decade musical career. Aside from purely technical considerations such as rhythm and harmony, the most important hallmark of Stravinsky's style is, indeed, its changing face.
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.