One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10


Obtain 10% discount


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom
Ph. 020 8418 0616



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


piano music Vol 4


Songs of Love and Sorrow

Thomas Agerfeldt OLESEN
Cello Concerto

The female in Music




From Ocean’s Floor



CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Octet (1922-1923)1 [13:27]
Concerto in E flat major, ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ (1938)2 [13:03]
Symphony in C major (1940)3 [27:40]
Symphony in Three Movements (1942-1945)3 [21:29]
1Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble, 2Orchestra of St. Luke’s, 3Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Craft
rec. SUNY, Purchase, NY, USA, 1991 (Dumbarton Oaks) and 1992 (Octet); Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, UK, 14-15 November 1999 (Symphony in Three Movements) and 16-17 November 1999 (Symphony in C). Previously released on Music Masters (octet and concerto) and Koch International (symphonies)
NAXOS 8.557507 [75:39]

Experience Classicsonline

The phrase ‘twentieth-century music’ may not sound so daunting in the second decade of the twenty-first, but in practice it’s still a no-go area for some. Stravinsky is no exception; indeed, the recent BBC TV staging of The Rite of Spring – updated to include S&M, ballroom, break- and pole-dancers – proves this elemental music is as raw and provocative as it ever was. By contrast, Stravinsky’s dry and sometimes opaque neo-classical and serial works pose a different kind of challenge, this time a more cerebral one.

Enter Robert Craft who, as Stravinsky’s amanuensis, has devoted himself not only to his master’s works but also to those of the Second Viennese School. I quite enjoyed one of his Schoenberg discs – review – but it wasn’t without its disappointments. Still, Naxos must be applauded for reissuing these Stravinsky recordings, which represent a direct and important link to the composer himself.

The Octet for eight wind instruments, premiered in 1923, slots neatly into the composer’s neo-classical period. Cast in three movements the work has a pleasing restraint and overall sense of proportion, an impression reinforced by Stravinsky economical deployment of each instrument and his focus on their distinctive timbres. The bright recording is well balanced, so the opening Sinfonia – Allegro emerges with plenty of perk. The playing is crisp and alert, with a Roaring Twenties feel to the Theme and Variations, not to mention elements of silent-movie-style slapstick. And surely that’s the Shrovetide Fair barrel organ we hear at 2:27? Rhythms are adroitly managed here and in the sprightly Finale.

So, a good start to this disc and proof, if it were needed, that music of the head can so easily engage the heart as well. As for the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto – the last work Stravinsky wrote in Europe – it also takes its cue from earlier music, in this case that of J.S. Bach. Indeed, the first movement has a distinctive, pared down baroque feel to its orchestration but with some lovely, plangent wind melodies thrown in for good measure. Stravinsky’s predilection for strong rhythmic pulses is also in evidence throughout. The recording is on the bright side, but not distractingly so, the musicians always rising to the composer’s quirkier demands. But it’s the central Allegretto that deserves special praise for its mix of delicacy and wit, qualities that Craft really brings to the fore. Even in the edgy urban music of the concluding Con moto he finds an element of suave sophistication that can so easily be missed in all this hustle and bustle.

The Symphony in C was written after Stravinsky’s wife and daughter died of TB, a disease that kept him confined for a time as well. The opening bars might draw comparison with the turbulent opening of Beethoven’s Fifth, but thereafter there is a surprising lightness of touch to the orchestration. Craft is certainly very good at clarifying textures and laying bare the music’s inner workings. That said, he doesn’t allow forensic detachment to obscure the music’s more heartfelt passages, notably those of the Larghetto. One senses this is as close to heart-on-sleeve as Stravinsky will ever get, the Philharmonia woodwinds as deft as one could want. As for the recording, it has reasonable weight, especially in the Allegretto, although the Abbey Road acoustic is rather close, notably in the closing Largo. Moreover, these last two movements may seem a touch unyielding and unvaried. In terms of general warmth and spontaneity this performance doesn’t match Charles Dutoit’s recording with Ernest Ansermet’s old band, the Suisse Romande (now available as part of a 6CD ‘Art of...’ set from Decca on 00289 475 7930).

The motoric rhythms of the Symphony in Three Movements are a different matter altogether, conductor – and players – much more ebullient throughout. Pity about the Abbey Road acoustic, but at least the bass drum has real presence. This is Stravinsky in a more playful mood, albeit with an underlying edginess at times. Craft certainly makes the music sound volatile, but even in more animated sections he keeps a firm grip on the music’s inner voices and competing rhythms. The central Andante – Interlude has some of the work’s most approachable music, yet one senses that Craft concentrates rather more on shade than light here. He also underlines the jagged rhythms of the last movement to great effect, the Philharmonia in fine fettle too.

Some fine performances then, but despite Craft’s unique authority and insights he’s not the first conductor I’d turn to in these works. I’ve already mentioned the excellent Dutoit, but there’s the composer himself in a 22CD set from Sony. That said, if you want these four pieces on a single disc – perhaps as a taster – this is an obvious and rewarding choice. Even the normally erudite Craft liner-notes are more relaxed than usual, making this issue even more attractive to new listeners.

Dan Morgan


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.