Small, surprising gems from the neoclassical works of the 1940s
Stravinsky the miniaturist remains much undervalued. The composer is known primarily for his large works, while charming morsels such as Four Norwegian Moods and the Ebony Concerto are not heard nearly as often as they should be. And so this third andante collection devoted to historical recordings of Stravinsky, which follows the composer into his vibrantly productive seventh decade, will come as an arresting surprise to many listeners.
Setting aside Orpheus (1948) — which is the last and longest of Stravinsky's neo-classical ballets and a work of haunted, luminous gravity — most of the pieces from this period are succinct ones. The Circus Polka (commissioned by George Balanchine for Ringling Brothers), Scherzo à la russe, Pater Noster and Ave Maria all play out in under four minutes, as do three of the movements of the Danses concertantes, all of the Four Norwegian Moods and all but one of the Scènes de ballet.