Stravinsky: Le Rossignol; Pribaoutki; Deux Poèmes de Paul Verlaine

Reviewed on Fri 29 Sep, 2017

The playing of the WDR Symphony Orchestra is full of character, the recording very well balanced and comprehensively informative – try the 'Chinese March' on track 7, which is thrillingly played.

Lovers of Stravinsky’s technicoloured tone poem Le chant du rossignol who are not familiar with the work it emerged from may be surprised by the opening’s ravishingly beautiful textures, the scene, a seashore where the nightingale’s singing helps a fisherman forget his troubles. Here Mojca Erdmann in particular is extremely seductive (she’s heard to even better advantage at the start of track 8) but by the time we reach ‘the courtisans’ on track 4 lead by the bass clarinet we’re well and truly in the world of Stravinsky’s great fairy-tale ballets. The music we know as the opening of Le chant opens the opera’s second act, except that in its original context voices (chorus and soloists) add to the excitement. Here Courtiers decorate the palace with lanterns in anticipation of the Nightingale’s singing. Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s performance centres more on a sense of atmosphere than on trying revisit the sparkle of, say, Doráti or Reiner in Le chant, sensibly so given that the musical context is entirely different, the need to convey a narrative rather more pressing than with the purely orchestral work. The playing of the WDR Symphony Orchestra is full of character, the recording very well balanced and comprehensively informative – try the 'Chinese March' on track 7, which is thrillingly played. Pribaoutki (four peasant songs featuring Katrin Wundsam) and the two Verlaine Poems (Hans Christoph Begemann) are well sung. A very brief synopsis is provided for Le Rossignol, but no libretto. By the way, don’t forget Robert Craft’s Naxos version of the opera, which is also first rate and in some respects even better sung.
–Rob Cowan