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Stravinsky - COE - BBC Music Magazine

25 November 2009
BBC Music Magazine
Bayan Northcott
4 Stars

It takes an exceptional release these days to get away with a length of as little as 54 minutes. But then the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is a rather special ensemble, retaining 18 of the pioneering young artists who originally set it up in 1981 complemented by the front desk players from all over the European Union. The result is a wonderfully characterful wind section plus a string body of vibrant unanimity and warmth. These qualities are enhanced by the church acoustic in which these sessions took place, yet skilful microphone placement has ensured that not a detail is lost.

The COE's leader Alexander Janiczek directs these readings from the first violin. In Stravinsky's ballet blanc for string orchestra, Apollon musagete (1928), he steers a middle way between the suave smoothness of the Karajan approach and the edgy haste Stravinsky's own later readings tended to take on. Tempos are moderate, but there is no lack of spring to the rhythms while the opening of the ‘Pas de Deux' is mesmerising in its translucent poise.

The Suite from the Baroque make-over Pulcinella (1920) is an altogether livelier, gutsier affair as delivered here, with a terrific rhythmic snap to the finale. What a pity not to record the entire ballet with this outstanding élan. The disc could have contained it.

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Chamber Orchestra of EuropeChamber Orchestra of Europe
Stravinsky: Apollon musagete & Pulcinella SuiteStravinsky: Apollon musagete & Pulcinella Suite