Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 9
This coupling makes a lot of sense. Stravinsky began where late Rimsky-Korsakov left off, as you can plainly hear in the more slithery, chromatic (or perhaps more correctly “octatonic”) sections of the The Golden Cockerel Suite. Petrenko and his Liverpudlians give the piece all of the muscle and finesse that it needs–there are no special interpretive pitfalls here, and that’s all that need be said about it. Actually, it might have been even more interesting to pair this piece with Stravinsky’s The Song of the Nightingale, but that would have made for a very short CD, so we’ll have to settle with yet another complete Firebird. Happily, it’s a very good one.
Performances of the complete ballet often leave a schizophrenic impression, and this one is no exception. This isn’t meant as a serious criticism: it comes with the territory. The popular bits from the suite are largely diatonic, folksy, and easy to do. The rest is late Rimsky: chromatic, fantastical, and harder to get through. The Infernal Dance brings both worlds together, which is why it’s the movement that so often fails in performances of the suite. Petrenko offers good readings of the traditional set-pieces, but he really digs into the fascinating colors and textures of the more exotic and radical pantomime sections. Mind you, the suite items are nicely done–just not quite as interesting.
So there’s plenty to enjoy here. Usually it’s the “in between” moments that prove a tad less compelling, and it’s fun to follow Petrenko as he turns the tables for a change. The fine engineering certainly helps.
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