With neo-classical works such as those on this disc, Stravinsky showed that great music could still be composed with the simplest of means, recalling Beethoven' achievement yet using his own thoroughly modern rhythmic vitality, grace and refinement.
These are reissues of performances set down in the 1990s and issued on the Music Masters and Koch labels. This disc opens with the Octet and "Dumbarton Oaks," both superior performances, and both recorded in the Recital Hall at the State University of N.Y. (SUNY), Purchase, an acoustic gem if ever there was one. The Octet is especially glorious, the winds ringing out with astonishing clarity and panache. This replaces the 1947 Bernstein/BSO recording as the most thrilling performance I have ever heard. Worth the price of the disc, which is just as well. "Dumbarton Oaks" is as fine as it gets, but the piece is not one of Stravinsky's most inspired.
The Symphony in C is played with greater weight than on the composer's own recordings, and with more emphasis on the winds. While this makes it sound more symphonic, it sacrifices the pure joy that made the piece so successful as a ballet score. The Philharmonia is a bit casual, even sloppy at times. The recorded sound, from Abbey Road Studio No. 1, is fine, but it is a letdown after SUNY Purchase. Craft lights into the Symphony of Three Movements with abandon, at a terrific pace. The first few bars suggest that this is just what the piece needs, but the orchestra is even messier than in the Symphony in C. So much for the best intentions. -- Fanfare Archive, James H. North, May/June 2009