Stravinsky: Pulcinella, Symphony in Three Movements

Stravinsky: Pulcinella, Symphony in Three Movements


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It may seem peculiar to some listeners to find Pierre Boulez at the helm for this CSO Resound recording of Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony in Three Movements," the "Four Études," and "Pulcinella," because it was the polystylism that these works represent which the conductor once vociferously railed against. But that was Boulez in his younger days, when he was still a fiery polemicist and a purist of the avant-garde, with an axe to grind against any who would not yield to the serial juggernaut, including the chameleon-like Stravinsky, who employed stylistic diversity as a major aspect of his art and resisted twelve-tone experimentation until his later years. Decades later, it seems Boulez has mellowed, for it is a fairly sympathetic interpreter who leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in these works, and it appears that the neo-Classicism of the symphony, the Rococo pastiches of "Pulcinella," and the pseudo-primitivism of the "Four Études" no longer seem to cause him any aesthetic discomfort. It is even possible that Boulez has found this music more appealing over time, if only for the reason that both he and Stravinsky have famously shared a resistance to emotion and favored a clinical musical sensibility. No one would consider these pieces deep expressions, and while the performances here are muscular, sharp, crisp, and clean, they are utterly devoid of sentimentality. Even "Pulcinella," which has potential for some sweetness and pathos, is delivered with a straight face, and the close attention to every detail shows that Boulez views it less as a charming neo-Classical ballet and more as a study of Stravinsky's idiosyncratic methods of fragmentation and recomposition. Of the three performances, "Pulcinella" comes across with the fullest ensemble sound and the clearest reproduction, but it is not as vivacious as it should be. The symphony has great energy and pugnacity going for it, but its sound is a little muddy and opaque. The "Four Études" offer the best balance between a lively performance and terrific reproduction, and in some ways this overlooked classic is the most compelling on the album, inviting repeated listening.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/26/2010
Label: Cso Resound
UPC: 0810449019187
catalogNumber: 901918
Rank: 119689


  1. Symphony in Three Movements, for orchestra
  2. Etudes (4) for orchestra
  3. Pulcinella, ballet with song in 1 act, for 3 vocal soloists & orchestra

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Stravinsky: Pulcinella, Symphony in Three Movements 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Dean_Frey More than 1 year ago
I found Phillip Huscher's interview with conductor Pierre Boulez, included in the booklet of this new CD on the Chicago Symphony's CSO Resound label, to be very illuminating. Boulez isn't at all shy about expressing his dislike for Stravinsky's neo-classical music, but he makes an exception for a work written in 1919. "Pulcinella is a different matter," he says, "because Pulcinella is a game." If so, this is a game that Boulez and his outstanding musicians play better than anyone. Recorded live at Chicago's Symphony Center exactly one year ago (February & March, 2009), this music just about jumps off the disc, it's so alive, so life-like, so real. Boulez and his crew have a number of advantages. First of all, they're recording the complete score of the ballet, rather than the better-known suite. Secondly, the music is recorded live over a number of performances, so we have the best combination of being-at-the-concert excitement and technical perfection. And thirdly, the producer, engineer, and post-production staff have assembled an amazingly life-like sound world on the hybrid SACD disc. "Pulcinella is a work I like to conduct, because it's like a toy within your hands" says Boulez. Listening to this disc in a good surround-sound setup is like playing with that toy at home. [Figures sold separately]. I've focused on Pulcinella, which I love, and which takes up the bulk of this disc. But I'm just as impressed with the 1945 Symphony in Three Movements and the 1929 orchestral arrangement of the Four Etudes. This is very highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago