STRAVINSKY Symphony of Psalms; Mass; Cantata
Back in the summer I gave a highly enthusiastic review to a Harmonia Mundi collection of Stravinsky’s vocal music directed with great commitment by Daniel Reuss (9/06). The present collection duplicates the aurally fascinating 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 from the Gregg Smith Singers and the Simon Joly Chorale, 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. This is the work I have been returning to, with Craft 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!