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CD Review

Igor Stravinsky

ReDiscovery 154
  • The Firebird – Suite 1
  • Symphony in Three Movements 1
  • Pétrouchka (1911 version) 2
1 Cento Soli Orchestra of Paris/Rudolf Albert
2 New Philharmonia Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf
ReDiscovery RD-154 monaural1/stereo2 ADD 78:19

This is not ReDiscovery's first glance backward (Orpheus-like?) at conductor Rudolf Albert. About four years ago, this reissue label released two CD-Rs of material – mostly Stravinsky (The Firebird, The Rite of Spring, Pétrouchka) but also Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (RD-100/101). That release is no longer listed on ReDiscovery's website (www.rediscovery.us) and now Albert's Firebird is back again, this time with new neighbors.

Albert was born in 1918 in Frankfurt-am-Main and, after training in that city's conservatory, held posts in Frankfurt, Baden, and Munich. Some of his recordings, particularly those made in France with the Cento Soli Orchestra, were licensed by budget American LP labels. The orchestra has many a brilliant moment in both the Symphony in Three Movements and in The Firebird – particularly in the latter's "Infernal Dance" which (because it is not rushed) sounds unusually threatening. I noted, last time around, that that orchestra, despite its French origins, generally lacks a typically French sound and could be mistaken for a German ensemble (for example). Albert is relatively objective in these two works, and doesn't make any controversial choices. Even so, his scrupulousness and his imaginative ear for atmosphere elevate these performances above the level of the humdrum and the everyday. ReDiscovery's David Gideon has done a nice job digitally remastering the reel tape masters, and so these monaural recordings wear their years lightly.

Leinsdorf's recording of Pétrouchka was a London/Decca Phase 4 release from the early 1970s. (Again, ReDiscovery has had access to a reel tape master.) That means that the sound is bright, brilliant, and a little artificial, but not dismayingly so. The agile, sometimes nervous pianist is not identified by ReDiscovery; it is Thomas Rajna, a Hungarian who recorded a lot of Granados for the CRD label later in the 1970s. Leinsdorf is relaxed, and frankly, not very balletic in this recording, which seems intended for domestic use. There is a lot of "interpretation" – that is to say, unusual or exaggerated phrasing, spotlighting, and odd balances. (The latter might be a function of the recording.) The orchestra sometimes sounds under-rehearsed, and I think few retakes were made during the recording sessions. This is not a revolutionary Pétrouchka, but it is not like most, and it might appeal to listeners who are more than unusually taken with this score. Gideon has achieved good results in his remastering, although at times we are reminded of its reel tape origins.

This CD-R is available through rediscovery.us for $15. As with most ReDiscovery releases, booklet notes are minimal. This release would be an interesting supplement to a Stravinsky collector's library.

Copyright © 2010, Raymond Tuttle.

Trumpet

Copyright © 2009, Raymond Tuttle.