This disc ushers in the 60th anniversary of the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, whose long and distinguished history includes a 16 year association (so far) with Dennis Russell Davies. The productive collaboration between the resourceful American conductor and Germany’s oldest chamber orchestra led to Davies’ appointment as Chief Conductor in 1995. Dennis Russell Davies has directed the orchestra in a number of important recordings including ECM albums with music of Kancheli, Shostakovich, Vasks, Schnittke, Hindemith, Britten, Pendericki, and Mozart. The list is an index of the orchestra’s flexibility, in evidence again on their account of Stravinsky’s “Orchestral Works”. Davies, at home in all musical periods, is an apt Stravinsky interpreter. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote last year, “There can hardly be a more multi-faceted conductor at the beginning of the 21st century… Inquisitive, hard-working…. His conducting style is animated by an ideal chamber-music transparency and a fine sense of tone colour.”
In the recently published “Penguin Companion to Classical Music”, Paul Griffiths refers to Igor Stravinsky as “the least known of the great composers”. A master composer, many of whose works are self-contained worlds, and whose inspiration and ingenuity continually led to new ideas and to new ways of viewing music’s past as well as its present, Stravinsky resists glib summary. Considerations of the composer as the detached ironist or the neo-classicist – or the firebrand of the Firebird years – tell such a small part of the story. The output is vast, and it is inflected in so many different ways.
But there is a changing awareness of the composer’s central importance in the contemporary musical landscape. Stravinsky’s “borrowings” from other styles, his “hybrid” impulse, once presented a problem for adherents of the Schoenberg school. As Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich writes, “Stravinsky’s apparent indifference to musical material remained a thorn in the side of determined modernists – his predilection for using and exploiting old models and thus to put it superficially, for remoulding or retreading rather than inventing.” But in modulating from one “historical colouring” into another, Stravinsky is now seen to be ahead of his time, laying the groundwork for post-modern music and a “polystylism” reflected in the music of composers as different as Schnittke, Zimmermann and Silvestrov.
Nonetheless, few other composers have been able to make use of both the old and the new so persuasively, and references in the pieces selected here – written between 1927 and 1960 – range from Bach and the madrigals of Gesualdo to Webern. Stravinsky laughingly described his borrowings, subtle and overt, as “a rare form of kleptomania”, but the sources are always transformed. Featured compositions, presented in approximate reverse chronology, are the “Momentum pro Gesualdo di Venosa ad CD annum” (1960), the “Danses Concertantes” for chamber orchestra (1942), the Concerto in D for string orchestra (1946), and the ballet music “Apollon Musagète” (1927), created for his collaboration with choreographer Georges Ballanchine.
Other aspects of Stravinsky’s music are addressed in ECM’s Spring 2005 schedule. This album of orchestral music by one of the iconic figures of 20th century composition is released simultaneously with Leonidas Kavakos and Péter Nagy’s duo recital juxtaposing Stravinsky and Johann Sebastian Bach. Later in the season, ECM will release a piano recital record by Alexei Lubimov, including Stravinsky’s “Serenade”.
Dennis Russell Davies was born in Toledo, Ohio. He has lived in Germany since 1980 yet also remained an active presence on the North American music scene as guest conductor with the major orchestras and operas of New York and Chicago. He is Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, other posts including Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum, Chief Conductor of the Linz Opera and Music Director of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz. Until recently he was also Music Director of the American Composers Orchestra.
Davies is recognised as one of the most innovative and adventurous conductors in the classical musical world. He has worked closely with many contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, Giya Kancheli, John Cage, Lou Harrison, Hans Werner Henze, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass and others. He has also appeared on 18 ECM recordings to date, beginning with Keith Jarrett’s “Ritual” in 1977. Davies’s recording, with the American Composers Orchestra of John Cage’s “The Seasons” won the “Best Contemporary Music Prize” at the Japanese Record Academy Awards 2000, while “Voci” with Kim Kashkashian and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra won an Edison Classical Award.
CD package includes 24 page German/English booklet with liner notes by Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich