First published in the Guardian on 25 August, 2016
Stravinsky: Petrushka, Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Orpheus
Vladimir Jurowski has been principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 2007 and what comes across brilliantly on this new Stravinsky disc — recorded live in concert in 2014 and 2015 — is how focused and un-faffy he and the orchestra sound together by now. The playing is bright, focused, elegant, occasionally too much so. Petrushka (original 1911 version) is short on crazed energy and urban hubbub, but instead we get chamber-like clarity and a really crisp sense of the score’s architecture. Orpheus has a sombre, stately beauty, and the Symphonies of Winds is performed in the original version with alto flute and alto clarinet giving excitingly mellow, gooey textures. Stravinsky described the piece as “an austere ritual” but also dedicated it to Debussy, and this performance clinches that balance between solemn observance and splendid colours. Best of all are the closing chorales, full of quiet, attentive poise.