Stravinsky - Pulcinella; Symphony in Three Movements
Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Pierre Boulez
CSO RESOUND CSOR 901 920
At the ripe old age of 85 Pierre Boulez remains as fit as a fiddle and twice as stringy. This recording from the Chicago Symphony’s own Resound label captures a concert from February 2009 featuring Boulez, currently celebrating his 15th season as CSO principal guest conductor, in fine form in familiar works by Stravinsky with an exceptionally attentive and virtuosic Chicago Symphony. The largest work here is the complete ballet score of Pulcinella, Stravinsky’s strategic retreat into neo-classicism from 1920. The work for small orchestra includes vocal contributions from a trio of fresh-faced singers, mezzo Roxana Constaninescu, tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, with Phan making the lasting impression. I am happy to see that the texts and multiple translations have been provided.
Though this is certainly not Boulez’s preferred period of Stravinsky’s oeuvre, he provides a genial performance nonetheless, though rather insouciant compared to the composer’s own account of it. It is bested by a magnificent performance of the Symphony in Three Movements of 1945, which revives the old spark of Stravinsky’s early rhythmic drive, and the enigmatic Four Études from 1914. The notably desiccated acoustic of Chicago’s Symphony Hall complements both the laser-like precision for which Boulez is celebrated and the dry champagne that is Stravinsky’s music.