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New release Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex on Lso Live, John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra

Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex, Apollon musagète

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John Eliot Gardiner leads the LSO in first-rate music-making here. These two Stravinsky works are contemporaneous, if poles-apart stylistically. Each is a masterpiece. Apollon musagète is for strings, pure in its beauty, and now given a vibrant outing – expressive dance always present. Gardiner’s interpretation is revealing, finding Tchaikovsky connections at one point. The whole delectable ballet score is by turns seductive, jazzily incisive, shimmering and eloquent.

Oedipus Rex, Stravinsky’s take on the classic Greek myth, is a very different story. Fanny Ardant (the actress associated with Truffaut’s films) is a vibrant scene-setting narrator. She addresses us in French, the sung text is in Latin, and there is an English translation in the booklet. Stuart Skelton presents Oedipus as well-intentioned if naive, vocally magnificent even as the snare tightens and fateful riddles come to pass. Jennifer Johnston is an imperious and scornful Jocasta.

Stravinsky’s setting is monumental, powerful and darkly impassioned. The Monteverdi Choir (men only) is thrillingly immediate, and the recording is transparent and tangible  (if a little on the dry side), complementing a clear-sighted and dynamic performance of music that here leans more towards opera than oratorio.

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