8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Abbado's Stravinsky from his LSO period is very fine
, September 21, 2006
This review is from: Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) / The Firebird / Jeu de cartes / Petrouchka / Pulcinella (Audio CD)
Abbado thrived in London in the Seventies and early Eighties with the LSO, and their collaboration produced some of his most vigorous performances. These Stravinsky ballets are among them. (I can't agree with David Hurwitz that Abbado never got better--he reached an inspired apex in his last years with the Berlin Phil.) DG's bargain two-fer features dynamic, high-impact sound, especially in Le Sacre. Admittdly, there are passing moments when Abbado, as was his wont, turns a bit tame and cautious, but the overall impression is of a brash, propulsive Le Sacre. The Firebird Suite is the only item that's seriously underplayed.
Petrushka gets another vivid recording and lots of commitment from the LSo; it also finds Abbado at his most involved. But for me the main attraction isn't the most familiar works but Abbado's complete Pulcinella and the Balanchine-commissioned Jeu de Carte (Hurwitz mistakenly calls Jeu a late work. With Stravinsky, late means 1950-71, not 1937, when this ballet was premiered). Abbado's approach is classical and balanced, but there's a good deal of inner life, which Stravinsky's subdued neoclassical ballets need if they are to connect with a concert audience.
I especially like the Pulcinella, which is an oddly difficult work to bring off desipte its hummable melodies a lively commedia dell-arte mood. Abbado plays it lightly, with refined textures and attacks that aren't as dry and sharp as we usually expect, articularly from the composer himself. Purists may find Abbado too mellifluous, but he's never rough and vulgar. He's lucky in his prestige vocalists (Berganza, Shirley-Quirk, and Davies), who struggle just a bit in songs that often defeat lessert singers.
All in all, there's stiff competition in these pieces, but Abbado gives ue the best omnium gatherum of all five.
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