Bernstein built the “Oedipus Rex” recording primarily so that he could use it to exhibit some details in that final Norton lecture about stylistic misalliances. He argued that in composing this acquire on ancient Greek tragedy — which uses a Latin translation of Jean Cocteau’s French model — Stravinsky by some means uncovered resonances with Verdi, precisely “Aida.” That could feel incongruous, Bernstein reported. But what matters, he went on to demonstrate, was that somewhere deep in Stravinsky’s consciousness “the primary metaphor contained in ‘Aida’ registered, stuck, and related with the corresponding deep metaphor in ‘Oedipus Rex.’”
The “Oedipus” score starts with a 4-be aware motif, thickly harmonized by chorus and orchestra, in which the people of Thebes implore Oedipus to help save the metropolis from a deadly plague. Bernstein, in his lecture, convincingly hyperlinks that motif to a pleading phrase sung by Aida, beseeching the princess Amneris, her captor and rival in adore, to have pity on her.
Bernstein’s overall performance of this opening blast is emphatic and anguished, and substantially slower than in Stravinsky’s very own recording. Bernstein maintains that grave tone all through the rating, generating the most of the passages with winding Verdian lyricism juicing each individual crunchy chord and, when called for, permitting the chorus and orchestra flail absent with clipped rhythmic intensity.
The Sony box also delivers bracingly crisp performances of the chamber function “L’Histoire du Soldat” and the Octet for Wind Devices, which Bernstein recorded with players from the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1947. I also enjoy the accounts of the Concerto for Piano and Wind Devices, with Seymour Lipkin as the piano soloist, and “Petrushka” (the 1947 variation) with the New York Philharmonic. (As a reward, there is also a recording of Bernstein discussing Stravinsky and his “Petrushka” ballet.)
As it turned out, my very last direct experience with Bernstein also included the “Rite.” In the summer months of 1987 at Tanglewood, 3 a long time just before his demise, he expended a 7 days rehearsing a large orchestra of college or university-age gamers for a efficiency of the piece. However the rehearsals ended up shut to the general public, I was then a freelance critic at The Boston Globe and was permitted to view. At situations I even sat onstage, driving the players, so I could see Bernstein as he confronted them.