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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Robert Craft balances scholarship and enthusiasm with perceptive musicianship, and his comprehensive annotations provide an invaluable listening aid. His long association with the composer over the best part of a quartet of a century lend his performances a special authority, and these modestly priced accounts of The rite and the Violin Concerto, together with their companions here, are self recommending.



Music Teacher International, October 2008

This generous compilation from Naxos celebrates the 125th anniversary of Stravinsky’s birth in 1882. At the helm is none other than Robert Craft, the composer’s long-time amanuensis and assistant. The new recording by the Philharmonia of London of The Rite of Spring in its 1967 edition, is a tour de force. Dating from 1911, it underwent many changes up to the 1967 version. Craft has incorporated many features from the original manuscript to produce a glittering, exciting performance from an orchestra that has performed this work innumerable times. It is spellbinding stuff, losing none of its allure, its intoxicating, explosive rhythms; as dramatic and eloquent as could be wished for. The orchestral sound is dazzling.

The appealing and accessible Violin Concerto finds a worthy protagonist in Jennifer Frautschi who brings out its lyrical charm and humour.

Craft’s hands-on relationship with this music is evident in the lesser-known Zvezdolikiy (The Star-Faced One) Cantata for male chorus and orchestra, where he achieves a homogeneous blend between the excellent singers and ensemble. This is an unusual 4 minute work dedicated to Debussy, unique in its singularly slow tempo. Likewise the Wind Symphonies (1920) come vividly to life under his expert direction.




Benjamin Northey
Limelight Magazine, February 2008

The ‘Robert Craft Collection’ is one of the more adventurous and interesting recording projects by Naxos and includes a very comprehensive collection of works by Strivinsky, Schoenberg and Webern. …a clean, incisive 2001 performance [of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments] bringing out the full spectrum of wind colour on offer. …If you’re mad about the Rite it’s an essential recording, fascinating to hear the emphasis Craft places on balance and colour rather than the more predictable visceral impact found in other modern recordings. Some may find it lacking in primitivism but it’s pretty amazing to hear the Philharmonia eat this score up, some of the best orchestral playing on offer today. Jennifer Frautschi is a real surprise in the Violin Concerto, making this masterpiece sound far easier than it is. In terms of value for money, this CD is almost irresistible.



Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, July 2007

Robert Craft wasn’t just Stravinsky’s amanuensis in his final years, he was his highly controversial literary ventriloquist, intellectual caretaker (and overseer, some argue). This Craft celebration of Stravinsky’s 125th anniversary is a variegated beauty — a sterling performance by Jennifer Frautschi of the neoclassic 1931 violin concerto which Craft considers “Stravinsky’s most perfectly balanced concert piece,” the masterful 1921 Symphonies of Wind Instruments and the epochal masterpiece which announced the arrival of music in the 20th century, “The Rite of Spring.” Add “Zvezdolikiy,” a choral rarity dedicated to Debussy, and Craft’s punctilious and dry-point Stravinskyish performance, and you have a disc of major importance and budget price.



UK
June 2007

“A record of the year. No question about it. This is a stupendous collection conducted by the legendary and controversial Robert Craft with the great Philharmonia at its earthy best in one of the most intelligently-paced performances of The Rite of Spring on record. Jennifer Frautschi scorches the ears with her bristling account of the Violin Concerto, the playing of the Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble in the Symphonies of Wind Instruments will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end, while the Orchestra of St Luke’s and the Gregg Smith Singers overwhelm with the profundity of their performance in the little-known Zvezdolikiy.” Review (5 stars) The Herald by Michael Tumelty, 16th June

“The fizzing electricity in the Philharmonia’s response to Craft makes this [The Rite of Spring] one of the most exciting performances on disc. His baton is light, brightening the bassoon’s waking earth and thinning the basses’ grinding dance. Meanwhile, the violinist Jennifer Frautschi is jaunty in the Violin Concerto, arguments are refreshed in Symphonies of Wind Instruments and the male chorus cantata Zvezdolikiy burns with intensity.” Review (4 stars) in The Times by Rick Jones, 9th June

“I cannot overstate the importance of this album, particularly for its revelatory performance of The Rite of Spring… Five stars, beginning to end.” Review in The Herald by Michael Tumelty, 2nd June



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2007

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Stravinsky's birth, Naxos have taken Robert Craft into the studio to record the conventional 1967 concert version of the Le Sacre du Printemps incorporating changes taking it back to the original 1913 ballet score. Craft, who worked with Stravinsky in his later years and combined with him in preparing the composer's own complete recording of his orchestral works, has always insisted that his recordings are not intended?to perpetuate Stravinsky's own interpretations, and also cites the composer's very differing performances as the years progressed. The enclosed booklet details the events leading up to the Paris premiere of Le Sacre, and though interesting an analysis of how the 1967 version differed from the ballet would have been preferable. Craft has the Philharmonia, an orchestra that has given some memorable recordings of the work, and from the outset the amount of detail we hear is impressive. Tempos much more relaxed than the jet-propelled speeds in some recent readings on disc, nor as intrinsically vicious as Maazel and the Cleveland or as sensuous as Rattle and the City of Birmingham, Craft almost standing back from the score and allowing the music to speak for itself. There are things here I have never previously heard in recordings and there are some things I would have wished came more to our attention, the sizzling tam-tam and the differentiation of the two timpanists among them, but in total it is a view you could live with long term. That the approach to Stravinsky's music has much changed over the past fifty years is nowhere better exemplified than in the Violin Concerto. Return to that priceless Ivry Gitlis recording of 1960 - if you can still locate a copy - and hear the hard-edged whiplash approach coloured with the pungency and astringent impact that was current at the time. Then compare that with the rounded and beautiful tone of the Vengerov recording in the 1990's. Jennifer Frautschi - presently being described as one of the world's top ten violinists - sits somewhere between the extremes, with plenty of bite in the fourth movement, and when the music relaxes she produces a tone not overburdened with vibrato and more in line with a Baroque quality. Technically it is impeccable and with perfect intonation even in the most demanding paragraphs. The Philharmonia bring more detail to the accompaniment than we usually hear, and in total I would want this to add to my Gitlis copy whose recorded sound was, at best, very basic. Craft's performances of the two remaining works have previously been available on CD and the tonal quality of the Orchestra of St.Luke's is ideal for the Symphonies of Wind Instruments. The close sound here is in contrast to Le Sacre and the Violin Concerto which stands back and offers a very natural concert hall perspective.






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