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The complete Stravinsky on disc from DG and Sony

(November 2015)

StravinskyBoxes.jpg Two special box sets explore the complete works of Igor Stravinsky: Sony collects together the composer's own historic recordings for Columbia, while Deutsche Grammophon presents his complete works in recordings by today's leading performers.

Igor Stravinsky's position as the pre-eminent composer of the 20th century is consolidated by two major recorded collections of his complete works issued by Sony Classical (8 88750 26162 5) and Deutsche Grammophon (00289 479 4650). Both are lavishly presented in boxes with extensive documentation and offer complementary perspectives on his output, conducted or supervised by the composer himself, or interpreted by leading performers and conductors of our own age.

For those seeking a modern survey through Stravinsky's oeuvre, the Deutsche Grammophon Complete Edition is offered at an attractive price with guaranteed quality by artists drawn from across the Universal Music labels. Classic interpreters include Claudio Abbado, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly and Oliver Knussen. A 150-page booklet includes a foreword by Roger Wright (former Head of A & R at DG) and a new essay on the composer by Richard Taruskin, while Stephen Walsh provides a chronology of Stravinsky's life and details his working relationship with Boosey & Hawkes as his principal publisher.

The 30 CDs in the DG box consist of 27 discs covering the composer's output, plus two discs of historic recordings of Petrushka conducted by Ernest Ansermet, The Rite of Spring with Pierre Monteux, the Violin Concerto played by Samuel Dushkin conducted by Stravinsky in 1939 and The Soldier's Tale featuring Jean Cocteau and Peter Ustinov under Igor Markevitch, together with a bonus disc of Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich performing the piano duet version of The Rite of Spring. Additional material, including synopses of the operas and ballets, is available by free download from the myDG website.

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Sony Classical's Complete Columbia Album Collection of Stravinsky's works is a deluxe repackaging of the composers's own recordings for RCA Victor from 1949 and for Columbia Masterworks from 1951. Of all composers who bestrode the 20th century it was Stravinsky who was most fascinated by the technical and musical possibilities of sound recordings, from the introduction of the electric microphone in 1925 through to his last recording at age 84 in 1967.

The recordings on the 56 CDs have all been remastered for the new collection and each disc is presented with the jacket artwork from the original LP. As a bonus, the box includes a DVD of Marco Capalbo's film Stravinsky in Hollywood. Packaged within the collection is a 254-page hardback book with an essay by Richard Taruskin describing the composer at work in the studio across 40 years, plus full tracklists and a detailed discography.

Both of Stravinsky's recordings of The Rake's Progress are included in the Sony collection: the mono version of the Metropolitan Opera production from 1953 and the London studio stereo version made in 1964. Of special interest are performances of the piano works and Movements by Charles Rosen, The Soldier's Tale combining recordings of the music from 1961 and 1967 with English narration by Jeremy Irons, and Oedipus Rex in two versions, in mono narrated by Jean Cocteau with Peter Pears and Martha Mödl, and in stereo with George Shirley and Shirley Verrett.

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It is fitting that the release of the Sony Collection can be counted as a tribute to Robert Craft, the writer, scholar and conductor, who died on 10 November aged 92. As Stravinsky's assistant between 1948 and his death in 1971, Craft worked closely with the composer on the Columbia recordings in the box set and committed to disc many of the late serial scores under Stravinsky's supervision, including Requiem Canticles and Abraham and Isaac, as well as the revised version of Symphonies of Wind Instruments. After Stravinsky's death, Craft went on to record an 11-disc collection of Stravinsky on the Naxos label.

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