Speaking of The Firebird, here is a performance that plays not to the audience but to the dancers on stage. Nagano draws precise sonorities from the orchestra. He favors clear characterization of the drama rather than exploitation of dynamics, a tact somewhat aided by the dry, bass-shy recording (Abbey Road Studio #1). The obvious self-effacement may be a disappointment to some – the "Infernal Dance of All Kostchei's Subjects" certainly has seen more demonic performances by the same orchestra (Doráti on Mercury), but probably none more aware of the role each instrument plays. Nagano reaps dividends in masterful portrayal of the firebird, whose mysterious appearance is heralded by ethereal orchestration and chromaticism. The concluding tableau is also beautifully wrought, as the enchantments fade and the petrified warriors reanimate to the blast of trumpets.
The tart Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a portent of Stravinsky's neo-classical phase, rounds out the disc. Recommended.
Copyright © 1997, Robert J. Sullivan