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Stravinsky: Scherzo Fantastique & The Firebird

Scherzo Fantastique, Op. 3
The Firebird (complete ballet)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer

Signum - SIGCD165

These make a sensible coupling (if short-changing purchasers a little, with TT 63 mins, even though Fischer's Scherzo runs to a leisurely 14 mins - c.p. e.g 12 minutes for Dutoit in Montreal).

The Scherzo (inspired by Maeterlinck's Life of Bees) with its magical scoring for large orchestra yet without any heavy brass - "gossamer textures throughout" [Daniel Jaffe] was the first of Stravinsky's scores heard by Diaghilev. That led to the series of commissions by Sergei Diaghilev for his 'Ballet Russes'.

There can be no question but that the complete Firebird is greatly to be preferred to the orchestral suite, and this is a splendid, vividly recorded account of it, with the BBC NOW in fine form in the two live concerts (2008 & 2009) from which this disc has been assembled. A must for the orchestra's supporters, and well worth considering by Stravinsky collectors.

But many regard Stravinsky's own recordings of 1961 "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky" unsurpassed, with the Firebird presented complete (most other recordings present "The Firebird" in a suite lasting only 25-minutes).

And do see Stravinsky conducting Firebird complete in Japan and with the Philharmonia in London - I was there ! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tGA6bpscj8

Peter Grahame Woolf