Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Firebird (Suite) (1919) [21:35]
Sergej PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo und Juliet, Suites Nos. 1 & 2 (1935) [38:40]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
The Three-Cornered Hat, Suite No. 2 (1919) [12:03]
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern/Karel Mark Chichon
rec. 2013-16 Grosser Sendesaal SR, Congresshalle Saarbrucken, Germany
OEHMS CLASSICS OC464 [72:43]
This recording of suites drawn from three famous modernist ballets provides considerable pleasure. The performances are perfectly respectable, and often quite engaging, but are not top choices in such frequently recorded works. Chichon was chief conductor of this orchestra from 2011 to 2017. This program is a memento of his time there and the high standards of the orchestra.
There are many fine moments in Chichon’s Firebird Suite. The opening movement is spookily inviting, and the ‘Infernal Dance’ has a nice swing to its fury. However, if you name your disc ‘Revolutionary Rhythms’, you do invite comparisons with other performances. Stravinsky is better played and recorded by Rudolf Kempe and Staatskapelle Berlin in an older recording, recently re-released by Berlin Classics. Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw sound luxurious in comparison to the Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern orchestra, and also offer tauter rhythms. No clarity is added by Chichon’s resonant recording, made in two different venues two years apart.
Chichon’s Romeo and Juliet Suite is cobbled together from pieces of Prokofiev’s own Suites 1 and 2, trying to arrange the pieces in a more dramatic order than did the composer. The Prokofiev is more successful than the Stravinsky. Tybalt’s death is played with real excitement, with percussion filling the room in rather fine detail. The Montagues and the Capulets rage with machine-age horror. But Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic also rage, though with a searing intensity that Chichon cannot match.
Three Dances from the Three-cornered Hat of Manuel da Falla are effective, and project a proper swagger in the finale. If you need this particular trio of ballet suites, Chichon provides solid and enjoyable performances. But you can find more exciting, better played and better recorded versions of each.