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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Igor Stravinsky - Oedipus Rex; Symphony of Psalms (Karel Ančerl)


Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  1. Oedipus Rex, opéra-oratorio en 2 actes: Prologue - Acte I
  2. Oedipus Rex, opéra-oratorio en 2 actes: Acte II - Epilogue
  3. Symphony of Psalms: I. Exaudi orationem meam, Domine (Psalm 39; att.)
  4. Symphony of Psalms: II. Expectans expectavi Dominum (Psalm 40; att.)
  5. Symphony of Psalms: III. Alleluia. Laudate Dominum (Psalm 150)

Jean Desailly, the speaker
Ivo Židek, Oedipe
Věra Soukupová, Jocaste
Karel Berman, Creon
Eduard Haken, Tiresias
Zdeněk Kroupa, the messenger
Antonín Zlesák, the shepherd
Prague Philharmonic Choir (chorus master: Josef Veselka)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Karel Ančerl, conductor

Date: 1963, 1965
Compilation: 2003
Label: Supraphon



No need to mince words here: this is the finest Symphony of Psalms available, certainly the best featuring a full chorus of men and women. If your hair doesn't stand on end when, in the first movement, the massed voices hurl out the words "et deprecationem meam", then you are either aurally challenged or dead. Has Stravinsky's immaculately cool wind writing ever sounded better? Has the second-movement double fugue ever been more clearly phrased or the closing pages sung with such calm intensity? Here's the bottom line: if you haven't heard this performance, then you simply don't know the Symphony of Psalms. Orchestra, chorus, and conductor are all beyond praise.

Oedipus Rex is every bit as fine. Even the typically Slavic timbre of the voices suits the music. Ivo Zidek makes a splendid title character, singing Stravinsky's high tessitura with complete confidence and firm tone. Vera Soukupová's motherly tone makes a superb foil to the otherwise entirely male cast, her attempt to calm the bickering Oedipus and Creon completely convincing. In the latter role, Karel Berman shines as one of the best on disc, and all of the small parts are well cast. As in the Symphony, the choral singing is stunning, and Ancerl's direction is a model of clarity and rhythmic incisiveness. Excellently recorded in their day, both performances sound perhaps slightly brighter in this transfer, but just as good as they always have. If you don't own this disc, you're missing something very, very special. Texts are given in original languages (Latin and French) only. [6/14/2003]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
Gramophone  The Gramophone Choice


Igor Stravinsky (17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. His output is typically divided into three general style periods: a Russian period, a neoclassical period, and a serial period.


Karel Ančerl (11 April 1908 – 3 July 1973) was a Czechoslovak conductor. He graduated from the Prague Conservatory, and studied conducting with Hermann Scherchen and Václav Talich. He was artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic from 1950 to 1968. Renowned especially for his performances of contemporary music and for his interpretations of music by Czech composers, Ančerl helped foster a distinctly Czech orchestral sound, both with the Czech Philharmonic and elsewhere. Highly regarded also as a studio artist, Ančerl made a wide range of recordings on the Supraphon label.


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  2. Muchas gracias. Un maravilloso Stravinsky.