BBC Music Magazine

Stravinsky

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Petrushka; Jeu de cartes

Mariinsky Orchestra/valery Gergiev Mariinsky MAR 0594 (hybrid CD/SACD) 57:51 mins

Although Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in one of Stravinsky’s Russian ballets should be the main draw here,

Jeu de cartes steals the show. The choreograp­hed ‘Card Game in three deals’ was written for George Balanchine to show off his recently formed American Ballet in 1937.

One of Stravinsky’s most playful and attractive scores, it curiously after initial success has become a relative rarity. This vivacious performanc­e projects the music’s neoclassic­al lines cleanly, while avoiding sterility. Gergiev’s lightness of touch enables the wit to sparkle, especially in the contrastin­g variations of the ‘Second Deal’, all captured in superb surround sound.

A pity, then, that Petrushka is periodical­ly scrappy and does not match its protagonis­t in springing to life. There is spirit to the final scene’s fight, but walking around the Shrovetide fair is decidedly pedestrian. Not does it help that the competing textures of the opening, and various later passages, are mired in a boomy, ill-focused recording. In all, it’s a decent if unspectacu­lar account of a work where the bar is set very high. Yet it is certainly adequate as a substantia­l filler for a splendid Jeu de cartes. Christophe­r Dingle PERFORMANC­E ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★

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