Stravinsky: Chant Funèbre, etc
Lucerne Festival Orchestra/chailly DECCA
In 2015, an early piece by Stravinsky, lost for over a century, made headlines when it was found among a pile of manuscripts in the St Petersburg Conservatory. Chant Funèbre was composed in 1908, after the death of Stravinsky’s teacher Nikolai Rimskykorsakov, and received a single performance the following January. But then the score and parts disappeared, and though Stravinsky remembered it as one of the best of his early works, it was presumed to have been destroyed during the Russian Revolution.
Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra gave the piece’s first modern performance in St Petersburg in December 2016, and subsequently it has been performed around the world, and now features on Riccardo Chailly’s first disc with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, devoted to early Stravinsky.
What makes Chant Funèbre so fascinating is not that it shows Stravinsky’s journey towards the three ballet scores for Diaghilev that would make his name, but reveals a path he would not explore further. In this steady processional, the highly coloured world inherited from Rimsky-korsakov is replaced by something darker and more Wagnerian, with hints of Parsifal especially.
Chailly follows it with three other early pieces – Fireworks and the Scherzo Fantastique, and the Pushkin settings of Le Faune et la Bergère (in which Sophie Koch is the subtly nuanced soloist) – each of which hints at what was to come, while Chant Funèbre stands apart.
The sequence, brilliantly coloured and played with immaculate precision by the LFO, takes up half the disc.
It is followed by an equally brilliant
Rite of Spring, though one that takes a little while to catch fire. It’s more detailed and more measured than the version Chailly recorded in 1985 with the Cleveland Orchestra, but equally convincing. Andrew Clements