Magazine article Gramophone

Stravinsky: Ave Maria

Magazine article Gramophone

Stravinsky: Ave Maria

Article excerpt

Stravinsky

Ave Maria. Cantata (a). Credo. Mass. Pater noster. Tres Sacrae cantiones (after Gesualdo)

(a) Ruby Hughes sop 3Nicholas Mulroy ten Choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh; Scottish Chamber Orchestra Soloists / Duncan Ferguson Delphian (F) DCD34164 (60' * DDD * T/t)

This logically planned programme is beautifully sung and blessed with outstandingly vivid recorded sound. We are brought close to the performers in an attractively resonant space, the best of both worlds for religious or quasireligious fare in which clarity matters as much as atmosphere.

Disingenuous as ever when discussing his Mass, Stravinsky declared Mozart the compositional trigger and liturgical use his goal, notwithstanding the work's antiquarian style, vocal complexity and unorthodox instrumentation. Under the direction of Duncan Ferguson lines are more tautly drawn than in Leonard Bernstein's unexpected English Bach Festival outing of 1977. Stravinsky, who wanted children's voices for both the soprano and alto parts, would surely have appreciated the expertise of the Choir of St Mary's Cathedral. The first such UK institution to allow girls to join boys as trebles, it has also had female altos singing alongside its countertenors for a decade. Nevertheless, the step-out soloists for the haunting Gloria are a boy treble and a not unattractively tremulous male alto. Only the Agnus Dei brings momentary doubts, the alert, almost mechanistic articulation precluding the pious wonder of an older, slower, blurrier time. Still, this might just be the sound Stravinsky imagined in his mind's ear. …

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