Works of Igor Stravinsky
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282 of 287 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2007
I began listening to the works of Igor Stravinsky about 53 years ago, when I was 13. Over my lifetime I've listened to every work ever recorded and each in as many versions as possible. A highlight of my life was singing the Symphony of Psalms as a member of the Oberlin College Choir under Stravinsky's direction in 1963. It was half an hour outside of time and space. I remember him in his tuxedo, sitting on a stool with a white turkish towel about his shoulders, like a prize fighter, smiling at each of us as we passed by to take our places on the stage. I remember how everyone in the concert hall rose as one person when he set foot on the stage. I remember the total silence that fell upon the hall before the music began. I remember him, old and rather hunched over, raising his arthritic hands to lead us, to lead us ... and then suddenly a torrent of time and sound rushed in; it was over and there was clapping and shouting and crying. Later he said to our conductor, Robert Fountain, "Your chorus makes a most delicious sound."

And now SONY has issued this giant bargain box of the great majority of the recorded performances to which that mega-corporation now has access - and at an amazingly low price. Thank you, SONY/BMG! But also: shame on you, SONY/BMG! The annotation is terribly inadequate, even for a bargain box. The casual listener doesn't have necessary information; the serious listener doesn't have important information; and the musician / scholar who knows the scores by heart hears what the annotations do not tell. Which version of the Firebird is it? The 1910 original or the 1945 revision? We are told much later that the suite excerpted from the ballet is the 1919 version. We read that Petrouchka is done in the original 1911 version, but actually it is the 1947 version. Stravinsky recorded the 1911 version earlier, in mono, with the New York Philharmonic. The same disc contains the Rite of Spring without indication of which version, the original of 1913 or the 1947 scaled down revision. And so on and on. This is vital information that it would have taken an editor but a few hours to add to the skimpy booklet included in the big box.

There is no indication that any of the performances that first appeared on CD as early as 1986 or so have been remastered. All have of course been transferred from some analogue master at some time or another, but nowhere do we find the standard information telling us whether a recording is AAD or ADD. To my ears the recordings sound the same as the original CD releases in the mid to late 1980s or the "original cover" release about 1991 (the most recent (P) date to appear anywhere in the present box). The sound varies from recording to recording in matters of bass resonance or harshness in the higher ranges, especially in the strings.

Particularly disappointing in this 22 CD collection is the use yet again of the 1961 stereo recording of Oedipus Rex. The sound is raw, the soloists strain their voices, the chorus sounds small and over-miked, and the orchestral sound is muddy. Altogether preferable as a greater performance and a far better recording is the 1951 Oedipus Rex with Stravinsky conducting the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The superb soloists include Peter Pears, Martha Moedl and Heinz Rehfuss, the chorus sings spot on pitch and tempo and is clearly but not too closely miked, and the orhcestral sound is rich and detailed. Moreover, Stravinsky brings greater energy and nuance to his conducting. The narration is given a somewhat over the top presentation in French by Jean Cocteau. Perhaps because it is a monophonic recording, SONY has let it sit in the vaults, to the best of my knowledge never reissuing it on CD. This is true as well of other fine monophonic recordings from the 1950s, including great performances in fine sound with Stravinsky conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. In some cases these would have been musically preferable to the later stereo remakes. They might even have been included alongside of the remakes for purposes of comparison.

Although ballet suites are included in addition to complete ballets, the variant orchestrations of a major work such as Les Noces are not included (as they were on the LP, under Craft's direction). This gift horse is a fine thoroughbred and a grand prize winner, but when you look it in the mouth, some of the teeth are missing.

Every performance is a revelation and worth repeated listening, but as I have indicated, that doesn't mean that every or any performance is the best or even one of the best of the recorded versions available. As other reviewers have noted, it is well to explore other versions on CD and DVD, some more recent and some recorded even earlier than those in this box. I think of conductors such as Tilson Thomas, Salonen, Gergiev, Gardiner, Colin Davis, Kondrashin, Haitink, Boulez, Markevitch, Monteux, Koussevitzky, and Van Beinum, and I am sure readers will think of others. But works of genius require many interpretations and many performances to reveal the fullness of their beauty, and so it is with most of Stravinsky's compositions.

Stravinsky left us what is surely one of the greatest musical legacies of the 20th century; some would argue the greatest, because his compositions track the stylistic developments of the century from its beginning to 1966 and explore nearly the complete range of known musical forms. Indeed, he absorbed the entire course of western music history into his art, but whether he is paying homage to Machaut, Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Russian folk songs, Louis Armstrong, Schoenberg or Webern, his works always sound like Stravinsky.

For goodness' sake: buy the box, listen, and let the music make you new again.
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135 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2009
DISC 1

Ballets Vol. 1

The Firebird (ballet)
Scherzo à la Russe
Scherzo fantastique*
Fireworks
CBC Symphony Orchestra*
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1961, 1962, 1963)

DISC 2

Ballets Vol. 2

Petrushka (ballet)
The Rite of Spring (ballet)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960)

DISC 3

Ballets Vol. 3

The Wedding (ballet)
Samuel Barber, piano
Aaron Copland, piano
Lukas Foss, piano
Roger Sessions, piano
The American Concert Choir
Columbia Percussion Ensemble
Renard the Fox (ballet)
The Soldier's Tale (Suite)
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
(Recorded in 1959, 1961, 1962)

DISC 4

Ballets Vol. 4

Apollo (Apollon Musagete) (ballet)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Agon (ballet)
Los Angels Festival Symphony Orchestra
Card Game (ballet)
Cleveland Orchestra
(Recorded in 1957, 1964)

DISC 5

Ballets Vol. 5

Scènes de ballet
CBC Symphony Orchestra
Bluebird - Pas de deux
The Fairy's Kiss (ballet)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1963, 1964, 1965)

DISC 6

Ballets Vol. 6

Pulcinella (ballet)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Orpheus (ballet)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1964, 1965)

DISC 7

Ballets Vol. 7 (Suites)

Petrushka (Suite)
Pulcinella (Suite)
The Firebird (Suite)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960, 1965, 1967)

DISC 8

Symphony in E flat, Op. 1 - Rehearsals and Talks
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1966)

DISC 9

Symphonies

Symphony in Three Movements
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Symphony in C
Symphony of Psalms
CBC Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1961, 1962, 1963)

DISC 10

Concertos

Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Philippe Entremont, Piano
Movements for Piano and Orchestra
Chales Rosen, Piano
Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
Philippe Entremont, Piano
Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra
Isaac Stern, Violin
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960, 1961, 1964, 1966)

DISC 11

Miniature Masterpieces

Greeting Prelude
Suite No. 1 for Small Orchestra
Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra
Concerto in E flat for Chamber Orchestra, "Dumbarton Oaks"
Four Norwegian Moods for Orchestra
Circus Polka
Concerto in D for String Orchestra, "Basle Concerto"
Eight Instrumental Miniatures
Four Etudes for Orchestra
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
CBC Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1962, 1963, 1964)

DISC 12

Chamber Music & Historical Recordings Vol. 1

Preludium for Jazz Ensemble
Concertino for 12 Instruments
Octet for Wind Instruments
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
Ragtime for 11 Instruments
Tango
Septet
Pastorale
Ebony Concerto for Clarinet solo and Big Band
Benny Goodman, Clarinet
Columbia Jazz Ensemble
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
(Recorded in 1961, 1962, 1965)
Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Symphonieorchester des Nordwestdeutschen
(Recorded in 1951, MONO)

DISC 13

Chamber Music & Historical Recordings Vol. 2

Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano
Joseph Szigeti, Violin
Igor Stravinsky, Piano
(Recorded in 1945, MONO)
Serenade in A
Igor Stravinsky, Piano
(Recorded in 1934, MONO)
Concerto for 2 Solo Pianos
Igor Stravinsky, Piano
Soulima Stravinsky, Piano
(Recorded in 1938, MONO)
Piano-Rag Music
Igor Stravinsky, Piano
(Recorded in 1938, MONO)
Sonata for 2 Pianos
Arthur Gold, Piano
Robert Fizdale, Piano
Sonata for Piano
Charles Rosen, Piano
(Recorded in 1960, 1961)

DISC 14

Operas

The Nightingale (Opera)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera Society of Washington D. C.
Mavra (Opera)
CBC Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960, 1964)

DISC 15

35 Songs

Faun and Shepherdess
Two Poems of Paul Verlaine
Two Poems of Konstantin Bal'mont
Three Japanese Lyrics
Three Little Songs
Pleasant Songs
Cat's Cradle Songs
Four Russian Pleasant Songs
Four Songs
Three Songs of William Shakespeare
In Memorium Dylan Thomas.
Elegy for J. F. K.
The Owl and The Pussy-cat
Tilim - Bom / Klabum - klabam
CBC Symphony Orchestra
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
(Recorded in 1964, 1965, 1967, 1966, 1968)

DISC 16, 17

The Rake's Progress (Opera in Three Acts)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
(Recorded in 1964)

DISC 18

Oratorio - Melodrama Vol. 1

Oedipus Rex (Opera - Oratorio in two acts after Sophocles)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera Society of Washington D. C.
The Flood (A Musical Play)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1961, 1962)

DISC 19

Oratorio - Melodrama Vol. 2

Persèphone (Melodrama in three parts)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Ode (Elegiacal chant in three parts)
Cleveland Orchestra
Monumentum Pro Gesualdo di Venosa ad DISC Annum
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960, 1964, 1966)

DISC 20

Sacred Works Vol. 1

Chorale Variations
on the German Christmas Carol
"Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her"
Johann Sebatian Bach
(Arrangement Igor Stravinsky)
Zvezdoliki
Ave Maria
Credo
Pater Noster
Cantata (Anonym 15th/16th Century lyrics)
Mass
Babel
CBC Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966)

DISC 21

Sacred Works Vol. 2

Canticum Sacrum ad Honorem Sancti Marci Nominis
Los Angels Festival Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Introitus
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
A Sermon, A Narrative and A Prayer
CBC Symphony Orchestra
Anthem
Festival Singers of Toronto
Threni (id est lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Recorded in 1957, 1959, 1962, 1966)

DISC 22

Robert Craft conducts under the supervision of Igor Stravinsky

Song of the Nightingale
Dances Concertantes
Epitaphum
Double Canon
Abraham and Isaac
Variations
Requiem Canticles
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Columbia Chamber Ensemble
(Recorded in 1961, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969)
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77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2007
Stravinsky conducted by Stravinsky - this super bargain set collects the famous recordings that Stravinsky made of his own works for CBS (now owned by SONY). Even if there are many fine recordings of the core of Stravinsky's works, for instance Ansermet's (Decca) and Ancerl's (Supraphon), the composer's own legacy must be seen as the first choice for any Stravinsky collector - or, indeed, by anyone who wants to have the basic Stravinsky repertoire at home.

This boxed set of 22 CDs contains more Stravinsky music than any other contemporary box, and the price is a complete steal (less than $2.5 for each CD, and even cheaper if you buy it used).

Here are some examples of what you get for your money:

- The early ballets: Firebird, Petroushka, Rite of Spring, Les Noces, Pulcinella, and the later, neo-classical ones (e.g., Agon, Apollon).
- The symphonies (in E and in C and in Three Movements).
- Oedipus Rex and The Rake's Progress.
- Chamber music, such as Ragtime, Septet and Octet.
- Jazz suites, and the piano concerto.
- Songs and choral works, such as the Mass, the Cantata and the Symphony of Psalms.
- Later works, such as Threni.
- And much more... (including the Robert Craft recordings that Stravinsky supervised).

(For a complete listing of the content on each CD, see SONY's German Webpage.)

Sound quality is vintage analogue from the sixties, generally very fine and remastered as well. In addition, the box is of the slim cardboard kind, with each CD in a cardboard sleeve. Booklet is included, but (unfortunately) no texts and translations of libretti.

In short, this is an essential set. Warmly recommended even if you already have individual Stravinsky by Stravinsky recordings - I suggest you use them as presents to friends and relatives. Grab and save this one!
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2007
I own the old box set. True, it takes up a lot of shelf space. The recordings are exactly the same as this set, presented in the exact same order. So I thought I'd buy this new set and sell the old one. But I decided I would NEVER give up the old set to save money without the texts or information contained in the booklets included in the old set.

Virtually every booklet in the old set has comments from Stravinsky on his own works. Some of these comments are priceless -- he dryly notes that since the premiere of his Variations (Aldous Huxley in memoriam), "the music has been analyzed more than it has been performed." Don't you want to read Stravinsky implicitly acknowledging and defending the mediocrity of The Rake's Progress?

How on earth can you listen to Les Noces coherently if you don't know the voices interchange parts? Renard loses its humor and zip without understanding that Renard the Fox is dressed up as a nun -- but how would you know that unless you read the stage directions included? Persephone and Le Rossignol, both gorgeous musical works, are hopelessly lost in translation unless you know French, and understanding the texts add to the beauty. It goes on and on, because Stravinsky wrote a lot of vocal and choral music.

These booklets are just as valuable as the music itself -- they provide context and clarity to what is being presented. Other reviewers look at this as a minor flaw. Unless you have a deep and intimate knowledge of Stravinsky and his works, I think it's a huge shortcoming; the original booklets aren't minor trifles. They're several hundred pages of text and pictures that really add depth to Stravinsky's work and life.

5 stars for the music, sure, except the Oedipus (as other people have noted, the recording here is AWFUL). But I insist that you should try to find the original release of this box and buy it. Or beg, borrow, or steal it from someone -- then you'll realize how much is missing here.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2007
Here we have an extraordinary set that belongs in everyone's music library---twenty-two CDs, the entire catalog of the recordings Stravinsky made for Columbia, at an amazing bargain price. Everything is here: the ballets, songs, symphonies, chamber music, short pieces, cantatas and operas, including the complete Rake's Progress. The Firebird, Pulcinella and Petrushka ballets appear both in full versions and as suites. With a few exceptions (A Soldier's Tale appears only as a suite, without narration), it's all the Stravinky you will ever need.
The collection includes some historic performances from as early as the 1930s, with the composer at the piano, but most of the pressings date from the late fifties to mid-sixties, and the stereo sound remains fresh. Some individual pieces are better recorded elsewhere --- listeners would do well to seek out Rite of Springs by Gergiev, Solti, or Abbado --- but as a group, they make a strong impression, and I have not found better, more infectious readings of the Symphony in C, Jeu des Cartes or the Symphony in Three Movements. The voices of Adrienne Albert in the Cantata and the Gregg Smith Singers in the Mass deserve special mention. For me, they make the recordings offered here definitive. (Some other personnel is surprising. The piano quartet in Les Noces consists of the composers Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions, Samuel Barber and Lukas Foss.)
Stravinsky was getting along in years when he arrived at the Columbia studios, and he was not generally well regarded as a conductor in any case, but his performances benefit from the steady guiding hand of Robert Craft, who rehearsed the musicians in advance of the recording sessions, and who is indeed a fine conductor, as he has proven in his own recordings of Webern and Varese. "Robert is my ears," Stravinsky said. There is no higher compliment, I suppose, and Craft deserved it. These recordings are his greatest contribution to Stravinsky's legacy.
The brief notes in the booklet are not everything one could wish, but they never are in bargain boxes like this. Sony has been sitting for years on a treasure trove of historic Columbia recordings it has not seen fit to release on CD. We should be grateful that for once, they did something right.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Stravinsky's music changed the world.

This repackaging of the cumbersome multibox set issued previously has been very well done. The performances are unique in that Stravinsky conducts all his major works (Robert Craft conducts 1 CD of smaller works extremely well). The sound is incredibly good throughout considering the hatchet jobs Columbia Records (now Sony) used to bestow on some of their artists in the 1960s. However, that some in that company had the presence of mind to capture these performances for posterity must be thankfully acknowledged.

5 stars for the real thing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 25, 2009
I can only concur with the other 22 reviewers who have written about this set before me.

22 discs, conducted by The Master himself (with one exception, and exceptional, disc conducted by friend and protege Robert Craft. It's 99.9% of the Stravinsky, including the lesser known - but equally fascinating - sacred works, chamber works, and orchestral works. Great stuff.

I purchased that 22 disc set for about $30 (that's not a typo) from a UK seller listed on amazon/us and received it in less than a week - many US sellers take longer to ship their product!

In fact, I'm listening to Stravinsky's Ragtime for 11 instruments as I write this - guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Of course for this price, you lose a great deal of annotation. But really - 22 discs for $30?!? The sound quality is very good to excellent with the exception of the one historic disc. And the transparancy and clarity of Stravinsky's baton work is astonishing! You may still choose to supplement some of these performances with others - particularly true for the three major ballets - but really, one could live with these performances for the rest of one's life and be satisfied.

I know I will. Grab this set before the re-seller price jumps up.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2007
I remember this set first appearing on LPs, and then CDs, at premium prices. It was a jewel then, and remastered the recordings are wonderful. More than twenty years after the LP set release, this is a tremendous bargain. How long will it stay in the catalog? Buy this before it goes out of print.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I consider this release\compilation to be the greatest classical bargain of 2007-a year of many complete issues such as Bach and Mozart on Brilliant classics(before 07).
Stravinsky is the conductor for almost all the performances with the CBS orchestra and, though recorded in the early to late 60's, the sound is spectacular. I am listening to disc 1(for the tenth time) and still love the ambience of old tape recordings(which I find far superior to much of today's DDD and DSD. I will take warmth, substance, and presence over clinical precision and unrealistic detail any day of the week.
Much of the works here are the performances of said works. Of course the rite of spring has been reproduced about as many times as the bible, so it is difficult to say this is the finest, but it is one of the best and with Stravinsky at the helm takes on an air of authority.
I must say I have never enjoyed a Firebird as much as this complete version on disc one.
Again the sound is absolutely incredible. I am listening on a Harman\Kardon surround set and it is spectularly detailed, yet full and believeable, like a real concert hall.
Bravo for this generous release and anyone, both new and familiar with Stravinsky need not think twice about purchasing this. Especially if you are new and would like to get the majority of his great works at one throw for the price of two new releases.
Bravo!!!!!!!!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2007
Kudos to Sony for reissuing this 22-disc set of the recorded legacy of Stravinsky. Originally retailing for $350, the pricing of this set at under $50 is an absolute steal. The packaging is decidedly economical with no frills - a simple box wherein each cd is housed in a cardboard sleeve. Each sleeve features a photograph of Stravinsky during the recording sessions. Though the set comes with an overview booklet, the major drawback of this reissue is that it does NOT include any program notes or libretti. The original set was replete with detailed and comprehensive annotations, as well as the complete libretti for all of the vocal works. I would gladly have paid more for the inclusion of these vitals. Still, the 'bang for the buck' factor wins all. The pieces are grouped as follows:

BALLETS AND BALLET SUITES
SYMPHONIES, REHEARSALS AND TALKS
CONCERTOS
MINIATURE MASTERPIECES
CHAMBER MUSIC AND HISTORICAL RECORDINGS
OPERAS
35 SONGS
ORATORIO - MELODRAMA
SACRED WORKS
ROBERT CRAFT CONDUCTS UNDER THE SUPERVISI0N OF IGOR STRAVINSKY

The sound quality is admirable, the performances respectable (though the Columbia Symphony can be inconsistant), and with Stravinsky at the helm, these recordings are more than just a definitive historical document. It allows us to rediscover and fully appreciate the entire span of Stravinsky's musical life and genius.
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