Vividly recorded and played with fire and warmth by the Philharmonia, Robert Craft’s generous coupling of the complete Firebird and Petrushka ballets makes an outstanding bargain on the Naxos label. The clarity of sound brings out the extra transparency of Petrushka in the revised 1947 scoring, with well-sprung rhythms in the dance movements and with the Russian Dance biting in its impact. The complete Firebird of 1910 is advertised as the first recording of the original version, but the differences with the usual 1910 score amount to no more than the inclusion of two long valveless trumpets on stage playing a single note in places. Nonetheless, Craft inspires a taut performance which holds the structure together, while bringing out the atmospheric beauty of this warmest of Stravinsky’s scores, as in the Khorovod or Round Dance where the Philharmonia brass is vividly caught, not least the horn solo in the final apotheosis, while Katshchei’s Infernal Dance has all the bite and weight you need. Helpfully, there are copious tracks to help identity the narrative, 22 in Firebird and 17 in Petrushka.
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