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Stravinsky/Auden The Rake's Progress (two from Naxos)

Jayne West sop Anne
Wendy White mez Baba the Turk
Shirley Love mez Mother Goose
Jon Garrison ten Tom Rakewell
Melvin Lowery ten Selle
John Cheek bar Nick Shadow
Arthur Woodley bass Trulove
Jeffrey Johnson bass Keeper of the Madhouse

Gregg Smith Singers

St Luke's Orchestra/Robert Craft

Naxos 8.572148 (128 minutes : DDD: Originally released on MusicMasters (USA), complete with text.)

Good to have this back in the catalogue, even though it doesn't beat all the competition; there are possibly a dozen recorded/filmed versions by now, some of them deleted.

Nevertheless, as Michael Oliver says [Gramophone 3/1995] it was important that Robert Craft had an opportunity to set down his reading, since he was so closely associated with the opera's genesis.

Craft's 1993 recording is 'notable for the audibility of every detail, but also for a very Stravinskian exuberant enjoyment', which is a good start for a budget reissue of an account that is already a decade and a half old. We're enjoying it and even without texts most of the words are clear.

For many collectors it will be quite "good enough", a criterion that Musical Pointers applies to budget reissues - some would say to its shame?

Peter Grahame Woolf



Anne Trulove – Hilde Gueden
Baba the Turk – Blanche Thebom
Tom Rakewell – Eugene Conley
Nick Shadow – Mack Harrell
Mother Goose – Martha Lipton
Trulove – Norman Scott

Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky

Naxos Historical Operas 8.111266-67 [Recorded 1953 – 146 mins]

A live recording from the La Fenice premiere of the Auden/Stravinsky The Rake’s Progress has been issued on disc, but this is the first studio recording, made just a couple of years later in New York during the preparation of its Metropolitan Opera premiere.

The cast of singers is that chosen for the Met, but for the recording the orchestra is pared down to chamber size and Stravinsky takes the baton, rather than Fritz Reiner, who had been engaged for the performances.

Eugene Conley, one of the Met’s leading lyric tenors of the time, sings Tom Rakewell. His words are commendably clear, and there is little sign of the strain that is often apparent in this role. By comparison, Mack Harrell’s Nick Shadow lacks something in power and menace.

Hilde Gueden, whilst not quite succeeding in masking her accented English, brings a warmth and brightness of tone which is ideal for the virtuous Anne Trulove, and Blanche Thebom’s Baba the Turk is splendidly assertive.

However, it is the orchestral playing, obviously benefiting from Stravinsky’s own detailed direction, that is the real delight of this recording, and the sound quality is impressively preserved and restored by Mark Obert-Thorne.

Serena Fenwick