Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stravinsky Box Set

Igor Stravinsky is all up in my grill like never before. Thanks to Alex Ross, who gave the heads-up, I now own almost the complete œuvre of Stravinsky in one 22-CD box set. And thanks to the British across the seas at amazon.co.uk, it was only $30.00!! If I did the math right, that's just over $1 per CD, and I can't even find that kind of a deal on classical music even in the bargain bins with all the vomitous "Mozart for Lovers" CD's. And despite a delay in shipping, I received the box set within 7 business days. The set contains all the recordings he did in the 1950's for Sony, plus additional recordings by his protege Robert Craft, and recordings of Stravinsky interviews. And the recordings are beautiful; you would never guess they were a half-century old or more. According to amazon, there are only a few small number of pieces missing from his complete works, including Stravinsky's version of the Star-Spangled Banner (oh, snap). I haven't checked my Eric Walter White book to cross-reference (file under: nerdy!), but I can't imagine there's much missing.
I obviously have only made the smallest dent in the collection. So far I've listened to his 3 symphonies, and his series of Miniature pieces, and I had to listen to Circus Polka, which was written for a real-live choreographed dancing elephant. It's not performed much, though I can't imagine why. I'm moving onto ballets/suites I have never heard, like Agon, Card Game, and The Fairy's Kiss.
This could be tremendously helpful as a musician- not only if I ever have to teach, but if I ever am curious about a particular work, I'll have the composer's preferred recording at my fingertips! I'm looking forward to playing the guessing game of "Which Stravinsky Period Did this Piece Come From?". "French-tastic folklore"? "Neoclassic refinement-slash-Fascism"? Or "religiously serialist/serialistly religious"? Try it at parties. It'll be a huge hit. Or you'll end up with more cake and wine for yourself later. Either way you win.
Here's hoping someone will pull an all-day Stravinsky marathon and listen to all of his recorded works in sequential order.

photo courtesy http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/stravinsky.html. unknown origin but a nice van gogh behind the composer. Stravinsky is saying, "I don't know about those brushstrokes, but I do like that hat."

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