Album of the Month: Looking Back on RR-70 "Stravinsky"

Sunday, June 17th is Stravinsky's 130th birthday, and considering RR has recently released their 1997 Grammy nominated recording (Best Engineered, Classical) featuring the Minnesota Orchestra performing Stravinsky's Song of The Nightingale and The Firebird Suite on LP, we felt that June would be a great month for a "Looking Back" feature on RR-70: Stravinsky!

"Igor Stravinsky celebrated his 28th birthday only weeks before the unveiling of The Firebird at the Paris Opéra on the night of June 25th, 1910. "Take a good look at him. He is a man on the eve of celebrity," the impresario Serge Diaghilev told Tamara Karsavina, who danced the title role. He was right: the premiere took Paris by storm, and the composer became famous, rich and influential to the end of his days. Assembling what he called a "wastefully large orchestra," Stravinsky produced an iridescent score that vindicated Diaghilev's high expectations, and which elicited a twinge of envy from Debussy, who pointed out that here music is not the mere servant of the dance, but its catalyst. Twenty-five years after Stravinsky was laid to rest beneath a spartan tomb on San Michele, Venice's burial island, down the patter from where Diaghilev's remains lie beneath an ornate monument, The Firebird remains one of his most loved works. — Mary Ann Feldman, RR-70 Liner Notes

Some quotes from reviews from the original CD:
"This HDCD has more detail than any live performance I have attended. The orchestra and the hall sound simly glorious. Put it on, sit back, and be amazed!" --BOB LUDWIG, Stereo Review

"There is no finer orchestral playing among American orchestras...Bravissimos are due to all concerned...a triumph of artistry, both musical and technical." - Heuwell Tircuit, InTune magazine

What others are saying about the new LP:

"With the advent of high resolution digital downloads and USB DACs, Reference was able to market full resolution, master quality recordings with its HRx series but the company was built upon a vinyl foundation and the folks at Reference always hoped they could find a way back if only...

If only demand returned and if only a reliably quiet pressing plant could meet their needs.

Well, that time is now, with the release of this album (Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite/The Song of the Nightingale) and another one, a reissue of Dick Hyman's From the Age of Swing (RM-1501), which was originally pressed on vinyl back in 1994...

"So in typical Keith O. Johnson fashion, this Firebird plays out on an enormously wide soundstage that you'll experience from a comfortably mid-hall seating position that will allow you to experience the grand sweep of Stravinsky's ballet. You're not going to be watching it, but you might as well be, so evocative is the piece. The rhythms are erratic, the instrumentation and harmonic structure unusual, and the orchestral dynamics explosive. Even if you think you don't like classical music, you'll be able to pull a film score out of your head listening to this and if you read the annotation that describes what you're hearing, so much the better.

Assuming your system does deep bass, there's a big bass drum hit that will scare the shit out of you and once the adrenalin flows, the piece will snap into focus. It also has the advantage of being a short twenty minute or so ride since this is the revised "suite" version and not the original longer ballet. "The Song of the Nightingale" is equally evocative and short. It's also a gorgeous piece of music...Highly recommended..." - Michael Fremer,

"Reference Recordings' recent re-entry into the LP market was big news... The RR team could not have picked a better album to start with than the Stravinsky. Eiji Oue's Minnesota musicians play the Song of the Nightingale as well as the Chicago did under Reiner in the legendary Living Stereo issue, and with, to these ears, considerably more tenderness and poetry than Reiner got from Chicago. Incredible? Ah, listen for yourself.....Keith Johnson's recording is his very best of all that I've heard him do.... Johnson has captured a unified soundstage that is most coherent in depicting layered levels of space fore and aft, each with its own dynamic truth. It is amazing to hear instruments, some quite delicate, playing deeper in the soundstage with as much dynamic realism in their range of contrasts as the louder instruments closer to the lip of the stage...There are some transient bursts on the LP that will make you jump, so great and unstrained are they." — The Absolute Sound

Track Listing:

RR-70 HDCD & HRx:
1-7: The Firebird Suite, 1919 Revision
8-11: The Song of the Nightingale
12-25: The Rite of Spring

RM-1502 (LP):
Side One: The Firebird Suite, 1919 Revision
Side Two: The Song of the Nightingale

Purchase the recording direct from Reference Recordings via the following links:

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