Stravinsky: Petrushka; Debussy: La boîte à joujoux

Reviewed on Mon 22 Aug, 2016

Ludovic Morlot’s Petrushka is a texturally warm, subtly characterised performance, very well played and recorded, and featuring some lightning instrumental exchanges.

The beauty of Ludovic Morlot’s Petrushka (1947 version) is its rhythmic precision, though by saying that I don’t mean to infer the common vice of chilling Stravinsky so that the ballet’s heart – a very big heart in this case – fails to function. This is a texturally warm, subtly characterised performance, very well played and recorded, and featuring some lightning instrumental exchanges, especially in ‘Petrushka’ and ‘The Blackamoor’, while the peasant with his dancing bear (3:46, track 4) sounds more grotesque than ever. The gypsies, coachmen and grooms and masqueraders that follow on afterwards stay buoyant for the duration, and Petrushka’s protesting ghost unsettles as it should – that is until the opening of Debussy’s La boîte à joujoux where, by dint of ingenious programming, the puppet seems to have gently sprung back to life. Interesting to think that this is the later of the two scores (Caplet completed it after Debussy’s death), a sort of ‘Jeux for beginners’, playful, supple and informed by a low-key sense of fantasy. Again Ludovic Morlot prepares an immaculately turned performance, one of the best yet to appear on disc, and the recording captures its every endearing strand.
–Rob Cowan