Stravinsky: Les Noces; Ravel: Boléro review – honouring the composer’s complex intentions

26 Jan 2023

Written by: Andrew Clements

Published in: The Guardian

Full Article (EN)
Ensemble Aedes/Les Siècles/Romano

An early unfinished version of the 1923 landmark work, completed by Theo Verbey almost 100 years after Stravinsky conceived it, is earthy, lean and superbly performed.

[…] “Stravinsky had first conceived the idea of a ballet based on the wedding rituals of Russian peasants in 1913. He completed the short score of the work four years later, and in 1919 began to orchestrate for an ensemble of two cimbaloms, harmonium, pianola and percussion. Yet he abandoned that score after just a couple of scenes, deciding (erroneously as it happened) that it would be impossible in performance to coordinate the mechanical pianola with the live instrumentalists and singers. But in 2007, the Dutch composer Theo Verbey continued where Stravinsky had left off, completing the remaining scenes of 1919 version, with the pianola taking a central role.

That’s the version recorded here, sung in Russian with the voices of Ensemble Aedes and the instrumentalists of Les Siècles, conducted by Mathieu Romano. They make a superb case for what was after all the initial conception of Les Noces – leaner, earthier and more economical than the later familiar version, a sound world that seems to match the folk-inspired vocal writing even more convincingly.”