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Friday, October 7, 2016

Stravinsky, The Soldier's Tale - Suite, Octet, Les noces, JoAnn Falletta

There are many post-Sacre Stravinsky masterpieces. Sometimes they seem to be underappreciated in the general swim of things. Here we have a wonderful coupling of three that well deserve continued acclaim--The Soldier's Tale (in Suite form), Octet, Les Noces (Naxos 8.573538). JoAnn Falletta does an excellent job directing the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Les Noces Percussion Ensemble (on Les Noces), the Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players (for the other two  works) and Tianwa Yang as the solo violinist (on The Soldier's Tale).

The pairing of these seminal Stravinsky works was an inspired idea, for they are all essential in their own way. The Soldier's Tale in Suite form boils down the chamber parts to their very essence, for a beautifully concentric 26 minutes without the narration. Ultimately this is the version to start with and Falletta brings the interactive beauty of the parts to bear, pure thematic brilliance and a great performance by Yang in the violin role. If there is a folk Stravinsky (and of course there is) this 1920 work and the 1923 Les Noces are two of the most remarkable examples.

Falletta takes the latter at a stirring pace for a rousing reading of the final version for percussion and chorus. JoAnne has the knack of bringing out the genuinely salient elements in a work and she most certainly does that here.

The Octet (1952) is a composition that needs to be celebrated as one of the small chamber masterworks of the era and though I would give the laurel wreath to Stravinsky's stereo '60s performance, this one is close. It's all there and there is a fine balance of intricate parts to be heard.

So for the excellent selection of Stravinsky gems, for Falletta's dedicated and weighted treatment of them, and for the Naxos price, you cannot go wrong with this release. Anyone not familiar with these pieces would do well to get this one. Stravinsky advocates who have other versions of these will get a different reading of the three. Either way it's well worth your time! Very recommended.

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