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Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex & Apollon musagète - Gardiner

Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex & Apollon musagète - Gardiner

LSO Live  LSO0751

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Opera


Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex; Apollon musagète

Jennifer Johnston, Jocasta
Stuart Skelton, Oedipus
Gidon Saks, Creon
Fanny Ardant, Narrator
David Shipley, Tiresias
Benedict Quirke, Shepherd
Alexander Ashworth, Messenger
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir John Eliot Gardiner


Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the LSO on this his first release for LSO Live, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Apollon musagète. Also featured on the release are the Gentlemen of the Monteverdi Choir, considered one of the world’s leading choirs, and a mix of international and home-grown soloists including Jennifer Johnston and Stuart Skelton. French actress Fanny Ardant, who has appeared in over 50 motion pictures, takes the role of narrator.

Oedipus Rex and Apollon musagète are both ancient Greek themed works by Stravinsky. The rich string harmonies and textures in the ballet score of Apollon musagète are pleasantly mesmerizing, expressive and calmly indulgent. In contrast, the dramatic and hauntingly compelling opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex is composed of an assemblage of monumental and powerful sounds, such as playful woodwinds, robust brass and agile strings, with magnificent vocals from the choir and soloists.

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Review by Graham Williams - April 10, 2014

The pairing of two of Stravinsky's finest neoclassical works, one instrumental and one vocal, makes for a most satisfying programme on disc when performed as splendidly as on this LSO Live SACD. This recording made in April 2013, was taken from one of the many concerts organised to celebrate the 70th birthday of the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

For Stravinsky's opera-oratorio 'Oedipus Rex' Gardiner has assembled a superb group of soloists . In addition, he has his matchless Monteverdi Choir as the male voiced chorus and the LSO in blistering form. Stuart Skelton gives a wonderfully nuanced performance of the title role, his portrayal most effectively characterising Oedipus's journey from hubris to anguish. Jennifer Johnson, a voice new to me, is a magnificent Jocasta, who, with her secure and authoritative delivery, brings an almost Verdian line to her Act 2 aria whilst Gidon Saks is a forthright Creon. The three smaller roles of Tiresias, Shepherd and Messenger are taken by members of the Monteverdi Choir, amongst whom the fine bass of David Shipley (Tiresias) is especially noteworthy.
The French actress Fanny Ardant, familiar to many from her performances in the films of such distinguished directors as Truffaut, Resnais and Lelouch, to name but three, is a riveting narrator, who delivers Cocteau's line's with conviction and absolute clarity. From her opening words “ Spectateurs, vous allez entendre une version latine d'Oedipe-roi” one's attention is grabbed and held.

Gardiner captures to the full the searing drama underlying the work's stylized exterior, and from the thrilling attack of the opening chorus the listener is gripped by the power of his interpretation of this masterpiece. The LSO are in magnificent form – their incisive brass, skeltering woodwind and weighty percussion thrillingly captured by the recording. The liner notes include the full Latin text and English translation.

This SACD is completed by an equally fine rendition of Stravinsky's 1928 ballet 'Apollon musagète' – or 'Apollo' as the composer later preferred to call it – performed in its revised version of 1947.The music of this ballet has a calm, delicate and transparent beauty to which the strings of the LSO do full justice. The sound is exceptionally well balanced with every instrumental line sharply delineated yet at the same time beautifully integrated in the tuttis.

In both works the engineers (Jonathan Stokes and Nicholas Parker) have used the usually difficult Barbican acoustic to the music's advantage. The multi-channel 5.0 recording (no mention anywhere of DSD) has the clarity and impact one might expect, but also a modicum of warmth and bloom that makes 'Apollo' especially easy on the ear.

A most recommendable release.

Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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