Stravin­sky: Chant Funèbre, etc

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews classical -

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

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