Stravinsky: Sacre Du Printemps; Petrouchka

Igor Stravinsky conducting Columbia Symphony Orchestra, with spoken commentary by the composer: Columbia D3S614 (stereo) and D3L-300: three records

Stravinsky is unique among the great composers in having been able to put on audible record his own interpretations of his major works in their entirety. Here are two of the greatest, and no other readings possibly can match them, not even Monteux’s luminous Sacre. I have seen Stravinsky conduct in rehearsal — and that is where the performance takes shape. He moves like a swordsman, septuagenarian or not, and the rhythmic power he pulls from an orchestra is astounding, and sometimes breath-taking. The savage images in his own Sacre really are savage, primal — they writhe and stamp. The carnival figures in Petrouchka are irresistibly gay, ludicrous, pathetic, and appealing, as the scenes pass. Columbia gave Stravinsky a band big enough for his thunders, and the devotion of the recording technicians is evident in the strength and sensuous clarity of the sound. The narrative Stravinsky recites of the Rite’s first performance will be familiar to many listeners (it is in at least one of bis books), but the sound of a great man’s voice is well worth two sides of an LP.