Well, it just happens that I never had a chance to listen to Stravinsky's music live, until last Wednesday, that is...
Part of their series " Meet the Music", that has been running in various forms since 1947 (!), this concert was a tribute to Stravinsky's visit to the SOH in 1961.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra played his Violin Concerto, another first for me, and the Firebird Suite.
I was 7 rows from the stage and more or less bang pang in the middle of the row - perfect!
Only comment is that being so close and levelled with the stage, you can't see the players at the back - winds and percussions are out of sight, but certainly there, specially in a piece like the Firebird!
The German conductor, Matthias Pintscher, did a great job at articulating the various instrument types and still retaining the poetry of the music. He was joined by Isabelle Faust, also German, but living in Paris -smart lady - for the Violin Concerto, a very difficult piece for the solo violinist who plays for almost the entire length of the piece. Great tandem and a real interesting musical discovery.
It made me revisit my Stravinsky record collection, which includes my recently acquired Anton Dorati as part of the Decca Sound boxset, but also another recording of the Rite of Spring on Decca, with Erich Leinsdorf with the London Phil. I really enjoyed that recording - I recently bought it in LA, and it was only the second time I had listened to it. Great recording, great interpretation too, much better than the Dorati I believe.
The Decca Sound
Well, first apologies for not having fed this page in quite a while...
and it is not like if I have not listened to new music for the last six months...
In fact, I bought a substantial number of LPs in Paris and another big lot in LA in January.
But then, I broke the piggy bank and bought this boxset...
At 2.504 a CD though, it is probably the cheapest archive of music I ever bought.
I have always been a fan of the Decca and Telarc records because of their sheer quality both musically and technically.
Decca have used very early in the piece an upgraded version of Andre Charlin's "tete artificielle" - artificial head, called the "Decca Tree' a flexible contraption of usually 3 omnidirectional microphones, but sometimes supplemented by another two to augment the width of the soundstage in large orchestral formation, or more recently to recorder in 5.1.
You can read more on this here: http://www.wesdooley.com/pdf/surround_sound_decca_tree-urtext.pdf
I have had the time now to listen to 5 of these 50 CDs, and although they vary in degrees of quality, they all share this limpidity of sound and the Decca signature "ambience".
So far, my favourites are:
Stravinsky "Le Sacre du Printemps" directed by Antal Dorati with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
This is by far the best performance AND the best recording I ever heard of this famous piece.
Both the pinpoint accuracy and the dynamics are incredible for a recording which is 30 years old. (CD15)
Holst "The Planets" directed by Herbert von Karajan with the Vienna Philharmonic. (CD22)
It shows Karajan at his best (I am not a great fan... apart from his discovery of Anne Sophie Mutter - but I am biased!), strong but articulate and at time subtle, bringing a totally new experience from my LP with Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philarmonic Orchestra on EMI, recorded in 1979 in association with KEF.
And finally, J.S. Bach and his Goldberg Variations played by Andras Schiff, a limpid performance and very realistic too. I am listening to it as I type, and it feels like the piano is in room, not a small feast!
The other two discs are certainly worth having, but fall short of the brilliance of the three above...
I will keep you posted as I make my way through this admirable collection.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.