Review R Strauss-Stravinsky

09.17.10
Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Gramophone

By Ivan March

An excellent orchestra and a well considered programme make for a treat

Diaglihev, inspired at the time by material he had collected relating to the Italian commedia dell'arte, commissioned the ballet Pulcinella (1920), its narrative based on the adventures of the Neapolitan clown of that name. The result proved to be the most striking example of Stravinsky's new neo-classical style. He drew on Diaghilev's anonymous manuscripts and music by Pergolesi and Domenico Gallo, and his witty stylisation of his source material, vivid orchestration and piquant harmonic pallete created a delightful semi-Baroque orchestra pastiche. Stravinsky's scoring is wonderfully inventive and is played with much sparkle and point by this excellent Polish orchestra.

Richard Strauss also experimented with neo-classicism, drawing on the music of Francois Couperin and, most importantly, Lully's incidental music to Moliere's Le bourgeois gentilhomme. He used Lully's score for an arietta in the first act of Der Rosenkavalier, so it is not surprising that his rich-textured "Baroque" orchestra style has something in common with his orchestra writing in that opera, especially the two gracious "Menuettes" and the luscious finale.

So this pair of neo-classical orchestral suites have, at once, much and relatively little in common. They make a diverse pair and ear-tickling listening, and it is remarkable that they have not been coupled on disc before. Jacek Kaspszyk obviously has great affection for both scores and presents all this music with elan. The recording too, engineered by Classic Sounds' Neil Hutchinson (the only name I can pronounce in the backing team) is first rate, and the concert-hall acoustic ideal for the music. Highly recommended if, like me, you count good characterful tunes a priority in the 20th-century ballet music.