• Igor Stravinsky

    A Soldier's Tale

    Oliver Knussen, Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble

    A Soldier's Tale 1 cd CKD 552
    Linn Records

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The fifth recording from the talented students of London’s Royal Academy pairs Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with music by Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies. For his debut recording with Linn, conductor Oliver Knussen has assembled an impressive cast of contemporary composers for The Soldier’s Tale: Harrison Birtwistle as the soldier and George Benjamin as the Devil, with actress Dame Harriet Walter as the narrator. The longest work on this disc The Soldier’s Tale mixes fiendishly difficult changes of time signature with Stravinsky’s newly discovered love of jazz with melodies which echo his larger pre-war scores. It is also a work that demonstrates immense clarity and moving simplicity at times, and a sardonic wit at others. With such a starry cast this recording will be of particular interest to those with an interest in contemporary music, especially considering the addition of two new Birtwistle world premiere versions written specially for the recording. The rest of the programme includes an exquisite Knussen arrangement of Maxwell Davies’ Canon ad honorem I.S., intermixed with Stravinsky’s own late commemorative miniatures.

Supersonic PIZZICATO award

"Linn Records has assembled an impressive cast in a very attractive version of Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale."
"The musicians from the Royal Academy of Music deliver a fresh and at the same time mature version of these works."
"The remarkable musicians of the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble forget their (relative) lack of truculence with exemplary energy and daring."
"Sound Quality 75%: The Royal Academy players are brilliantly responsive to Stravinsky’s jazzy score: brass and winds especially."
Hi-Fi News, 18 December 2017
"Top 20 Classical Albums of 2017: There’s a fun tradition of venerable composers playing the speaking roles in Stravinsky’s Faustian fable The Soldier’s Tale. The custom was honoured this year with Oliver Knussen conducting Harrison Birtwistle as a superbly laconic Soldier and George Benjamin as a deliciously supercilious Devil. Bizarre and brilliant."
The Herald, 13 December 2017
"Performance 4 / Recording 5: For anyone wanting an English language account of this key Stravinsky masterpiece...this set has much to offer....the disc merits a strong recommendation."
BBC Music Magazine, October 2017
"...this new release joins this exalted company in my pantheon...an unequivocal recommendation."
Fanfare, 14 August 2017
"...this Linn Records set sounds crisp, vibrant, and entirely captivating."
HiFi Sound, 1 June 2017
"5* Editor's Choice: ...crisp and alert, securing excellent playing throughout..."
Rhinegold, 24 May 2017
"5* Best of 2017: ...a complete and highly entertaining performance of this innovative theatrical work..."
All Music, 17 May 2017
"...the young players of the Royal Academy really revel in these and play with guts and a swagger which must be just what Stravinsky intended."
MusicWeb International, 11 May 2017
"...as versions of the original go, this new one is a winner. It's conducted, brilliantly, by Oliver Knussen, leading a flawless student ensemble."
The Arts Desk, 6 May 2017
"In short, this is a terrific release, so good, in fact, that I chose to replace the Nagano-Sting recording with it in my collection."
The Art Music Lounge, 4 May 2017
"4* - The musical performance is one of stinging clarity and incision..."
The Scotsman, 27 March 2017
"[A] remarkable disc..."
The Sunday Times, 26 March 2017
"...this new account goes straight to the top of the pile...a dazzling account of a modern classic."
Europadisc, 24 March 2017
"The chief delight is the characterful brilliance of the instrumental playing from the RAM ensemble under Oliver Knussen."
BBC Radio 3 'Record Review', 18 March 2017
"4* - Harriet Walter’s lively Narrator is paired with two august composers in the other speaking roles."
Financial Times, 17 March 2017
"4* - ...the playing of the Royal Academy's Manson Ensemble is taut, fearless and detailed."
The Guardian, 16 March 2017
"Anyone who knows Knussen's magical disc of seemingly intractable late Stravinsky (DG, 10/95) or his unbeatable Fairy's Kiss (DG, 11/97) will want this one too."
Gramophone, March 2017