Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms
The Gramophone Choice
Coupled with Cantata on Old English Texts. Mass. Babel. Three Russian Sacred Choruses
Mary Ann Hart mez Thomas Bogdan ten David Wilson-Johnson spkr Michael Parloff, Bart Feller fls Stephen Taylor ob Melanie Feld cora Fred Sherry vc Gregg Smith Singers; Simon Joly Chorale; Philharmonia Orchestra; Orchestra of St Luke’s / Robert Craft
Naxos 8 557504 (73’ · DDD) Buy from Amazon
This superb collection partly duplicates the aurally fascinating Harmonia Mundi disc (see review here) in the Cantata and the superb Mass in fine, authoritative performances from Robert Craft. He does not have the advantage of Carolyn Sampson among his soloists but he does have excellent choral singing, and in the glorious Symphony of Psalms the Philharmonia Orchestra on top form. This is the highlight of the programme, a superbly structured account, rich in lyrical feeling, building to the frisson-creating ‘Alleluias’ of the closing section. The Cantata is finely sung and played, with characteristically clear instrumental detail, and the mini-cantata Babel, with its spoken narration and choral responses, is also a success.
The programme opens with three brief Russian sacred chorales which are immediately appealing and as idomatic as one can expect from non-Russian singers. The recordings were made over a decade between 1992 and 2002 and are of good quality, with the Symphony of Psalms (2001) – made at Abbey Road – standing out on all counts. Craft is obviously uplifted by the music of the composer’s supreme vocal masterpiece. As always with Naxos, excellent documentation, with the detailed notes provided by Craft himself. A bargain!