STRAVINSKY: Symphony in C / Symphony in Three Movements (En Shao/ Murray Khouri/ New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553403)
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Stravinsky went through three very differing periods during his life, the first being essentially inspired by his Russian background; the second, a neoclassical phase, and finally, a period in which he embraced serial techniques.
All three works on this disc are essentially from his second phase, the Symphony in C dating from 1938, and first performed by the Chicago Symphony, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary
It is in the customary four movements, opening with a brilliant and rhythmically incisive first movement; the second with its haunting theme for solo oboe, while the remaining two movements are rhythmically complex, but in essence, were designed to bring the work to a customer-friendly conclusion.
Sketches for the Symphony in Three Movements began in 1942 with the work completed in 1945, when the composer was largely living in Hollywood, and the work has often been described as a Concerto for Orchestra with a concertante part for piano. It is indeed a virtuoso work that demands the overtly brilliant style of performance that the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra can bring to music of this period. Indeed many of the musicians of this orchestra come from the West Coast of America, and the brittle impact of the work is here fully realised.
To conclude the disc, we have the original 1920 version of the short Symphonies for Wind Instruments, a pungent work which bridged the gap between his Russian and Neoclassic period, as he exploits every tonal facet of the wind section.
The recording was made in Wellington, on 4th and 5th April 1995, with Murray Khouri as the producer.