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Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex


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Product details

  • Performer: Ralph Richardson
  • Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Colin Davis
  • Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • Audio CD (2 Jun. 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EMI CFP
  • ASIN: B00009KHY9
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,132 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The version of Oedipus Rex which you are to hear
2. Caedit nos pestis, Thebis peste moritue
3. Liberi, Vos Liberabo
4. Here is Creon ... Respondit deus
5. Non Reperias Vetus Scelus
6. Oedipus questions the fountain of truth ... Delie, exspectamus
7. Dicere non possum, dicere non licet
8. Invidia Fortunam Odit
9. Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!
10. The quarrel between the princes brings Jocasta on to the scene
11. Nonne erubescite, reges
12. Ego Senem Cecedi
13. A shepherd, the witness to the crime, appears ... Adest omniscius pastor
14. Oportebat Tacere, Nunquam Loqui
15. Nonne Monstrum Rescituri
16. In Monte Reppertus Est
17. And now you will hear the messenger
18. Divum Jocastae Caput Mortuum!

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Mitchell on 19 Jan. 2004
An intense and abrasive performance that brings out all the horror of the tragedy, with Stravinsky's angular, wierd and declamatory music splendidly sung and played. Richardson is superb as the narrator, all the singers execute the colloratura runs with ease and Davis maintains a greater tension throughout than in his later Bavarian recording. Perhaps this is short on any sensuality, but all the better for it. A reminder of the high quality of British singing at the time of recording, probably the best recording of this work on record, and unbeatable value at this low price. Dont buy that cup of coffee and a muffin, buy this and be thrilled over and over again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Dec. 2009
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It might seem strange that a 20th century musical adaptation of a play originally written in ancient Greek should be done not in some modern vernacular but in Latin. Stravinsky explains eloquently, calling Latin `a medium not dead but turned to stone and so monumentalised...' Latin has a long and still valid pedigree as the language of stately occasions. It is the language of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Verdi's Requiem, and it manages to lend a dimension of dignity even to the ribald verses set by Karl Orff. Tragedies do not come much more sombre than the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, or the Electra of the same author. One way of turning Sophocles into modern music is the way Hoffmansthal and Strauss went about Electra, using modern German and a ripe musical idiom for the `psycho-sexual' implications of the libretto. The lean and spare style of Stravinsky demands something else, and what he and Cocteau, via their Latinist, have produced is a static but tense opera-oratorio as they call it. The idea was not new, and Handel's Hercules would be properly called by the same name. However that is in English. It's Latin that we want to do justice to the tale of Oedipus, son and killer of Laius, the Man of Stone.

Do not, if I may suggest, try to follow Oedipus Rex without the libretto in front of you, at least not until you know the work by heart. However good your Latin is, it is just too much of a strain to try to pick up the words by ear, and they are too important to miss. The Latin is simple and lapidary to the point of being runic, to keep up the stone metaphor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bill H on 8 April 2011
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Excellent reviews of this recording; very erudite.
I have this CD and it is very good. I also cherish the 1951 live recording in Cologne, conducted by Stravinsky with Peter Pears as Oedipus which I got as an MP3 download from Naxos. I also have on LP an American monstrosity which I ignore, conducted by Bernstein I think. But for those looking for an Oedipus this is damn good.
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I am happy to endorse those who have given this five stars. It deserves them. One reason is that it was based on an actual run of performances by this team in the old Sadler's Wells theatre in London in the early 1960s. I saw this production as a child - it made a great impression - and I was very glad when this was reissued on CD. It certainly lived up to my (rather hazy) memories. It's a shame Colin Davis recorded so comparatively little Stravinsky.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Six star performance of one of my favorite works. One of Stravinksy's great masterpieces. 24 Dec. 2005
By Craig Matteson - Published on Amazon.com
This is my favorite recording of this work for many reasons. First of all, the soloists all have a bright and strong timbre to their voices that I think represents the music wonderfully well. For example, when Tiresias finally reveals that the murderer of the king is a king, the D above middle C he holds into Oedipus' entrance on the same note should blend into one voice for the point of the statement to hold (because Oedipus is the murderer - unwittingly, but still the man who killed his father). Here the voice of the fine Australian tenor Ronald Dowd and the rich bass of Harold Blackburn find that magical unity to identify Oedipus as the guilty party.

This recording was made after an historic performance of this work by the young conductor Colin Davis at Sadler Wells (I don't know if he was Sir Colin then, but he is now!). It was done with the kind of stone like masks that Stravinsky called for, but the music is performed with passion and fire. Some liken it to Verdi and feel that this recording has almost too much character for what Stravinsky had in mind. I don't care.

Look, we have Sir Ralph Richardson as the narrator and his version of the narration is the best, by a long shot, of any that I have heard. It has the kind of formal wear dignity one needs for this work without ever being stuffy. As a consummate actor, he imbues the narration with life rather than as an almost embarrassing throwaway. As I said, every one of the soloists is superb. I must mention Patricia Johnson as one of the very best singers of the Jocasta role. Again, she has a bright voice, but has wonderful hues in her lower register (where much of this role is sung) without losing power. And Raimund Herincx is terrific as the monumental Creon.

Davis leads this band of singers, chorus, and orchestra so well that it is always sad when this work ends (not just because the ending is sad, but because you want more music). From the opening fury of the chorus pleading to be saved from the plague to their sad farewell to the blinded and banished Oedipus, this is a performance for all time.

The only disappointment in this release of the work is that the text in Latin and English translation is not provided. Remember, this is a Greek tragedy that was written in French by Cocteau and then translated into Latin by Jean Daniélou. Stravinsky said he wanted it in a language that was monumental and above corruption. And given the way Stravinsky uses the words of the text, in a way it isn't necessary to know the words. However, I like to know them to notice what Stravinsky did with them. And it would only have been a few cents more. When this was released on disk, the notes were on the back cover of the album and the text was provided on the sleeve containing the record. In any case, you have Richardson's magnificent narration for each scene, and the Latin isn't particularly difficult.

Fabulous and emphatically recommended!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A performance of surpassing drama, one of a kind! 3 Sept. 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Although it's a neo-classical work, and therefore often preformed as if more ritual than drama, sometimes Oedipus Rex gets a really fiery reading. This is one, a recording made after performances staged at Sadler's Wells in 1963. In general, the roster of singers is mostly forgotten now, but all are good and the Oedipus of Roland Dowd is superb. If you ever felt that Stravinsky created a flat, featureless puppet in Oedipus, Dowd will convince you that this is a role as full as Manrico in "Trovatore." Highly recommended
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
SET IN STONE 30 Dec. 2009
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
It might seem strange that a 20th century musical adaptation of a play originally written in ancient Greek should be done not in some modern vernacular but in Latin. Stravinsky explains eloquently, calling Latin `a medium not dead but turned to stone and so monumentalised...' Latin has a long and still valid pedigree as the language of stately occasions. It is the language of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Verdi's Requiem, and it manages to lend a dimension of dignity even to the ribald verses set by Karl Orff. Tragedies do not come much more sombre than the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, or the Electra of the same author. One way of turning Sophocles into modern music is the way Hoffmansthal and Strauss went about Electra, using modern German and a ripe musical idiom for the `psycho-sexual' implications of the libretto. The lean and spare style of Stravinsky demands something else, and what he and Cocteau, via their Latinist, have produced is a static but tense opera-oratorio as they call it. The idea was not new, and Handel's Hercules would be properly called by the same name. However that is in English. It's Latin that we want to do justice to the tale of Oedipus, son and killer of Laius, the Man of Stone.

Do not, if I may suggest, try to follow Oedipus Rex without the libretto in front of you, at least not until you know the work by heart. However good your Latin is, it is just too much of a strain to try to pick up the words by ear, and they are too important to miss. The Latin is simple and lapidary to the point of being runic, to keep up the stone metaphor. However a text with English translation is available, and I am indebted to Mr W Soll in his review adjacent to this one for providing the link to a source from which this can be downloaded and printed free of charge using Adobe Reader.

Thus fully equipped you will find a performance that I would call outstandingly good. The narrator is no less than Ralph Richardson, the very embodiment of English gravitas. There is only one female role here (even the chorus is all male), and Patricia Johnson handles it with power and aplomb, whatever the alleged difficulties in making this largely low-pitched part audible above the orchestra in a live performance in the concert hall. Listening to the tense duet between Jocasta and Oedipus, I find myself in entire agreement with the liner note author when he says that this composition, however static in its presentation, is more opera than oratorio (like Handel's Hercules again). The scene is simply terrific - Oedipus is starting to feel less self-assured, but the penny has not dropped with him. Jocasta has already fully grasped the horror of the situation, and is desperately trying for the moment to go into denial, which she is completely unable to do. What it recalls is various ensembles by Verdi, and all the better it is for that.

The male soloists strike me as excellent too. I was always on the side of Raimund Herincx when he was encountering criticism regarding his suitability for the part of Purcell's Aeneas, and I like his burly tone here again in the parts of Creon and the Messenger. The Shepherd is the other tenor part (besides Oedipus), and it was right to give this vital role in the drama to so distinguished an artist as Alberto Remedios. Tiresias is majestically delineated by Harold Blackburn, but for some strange reason the libretto seems to make no reference to Tiresias' blindness (unless I have suffered temporary myopia myself). As well as embodying the `unities' of time place and action so much admired by Aristotle, the OT of Sophocles is renowned for the irony that the full dimensions of the tragedy are detected first by the blind seer.

`A gift not asked for'. That is how Sophocles (although not Cocteau) makes Oedipus describe his kingship in Thebes - `doreton ouk aiteton'. Housman wickedly borrowed the phrase in his brilliant parody Fragment of a Greek Tragedy to characterise the bovine attributes bestowed by Zeus on poor Io. Housman caught and guyed the highly stylised idiom of Greek tragedy for satirical purposes. Cocteau and his Latiniser Jean Danielou have likewise done a brilliant job of capturing the `feel' of the drama, but this time of course with fully tragic intent. Everything about this set, really, seems excellent to me. It is only 50 minutes or so of music, of course, but at remaindered prices that should not be too much of a heartbreak. The contribution from Davis is excellent, and the recording is first class too, with a lot of presence, although you may be inclined to lower the volume control below its usual setting. Even the liner note is not bad, although hardly revelatory. Malcolm Rayment ends it with the phrase from Tiresias `lux facta', i.e. `then there was light', referring of course to the awful dawn that broke over Oedipus and Jocasta. A great play, a great musical score, a great performance and - yes - a great light too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Stravinsky's finest post-"Rite of Spring" composition 25 Dec. 2008
By W. Soll - Published on Amazon.com
I agree completely with the earlier reviewers and am grateful to them; their reviews led me to purchase this wonderful CD.

Oedipus Rex is often described--correctly--as a "monumental" work. The composer directed that the work be performed with stone masks, and chose to have the text translated into Latin, "a language not dead, but turned to stone." Paradoxically, the monumental detachment of such a framework liberated Stravinsky to create his most emotionally powerful score, as if he feared that anything less elevated would render human emotions tawdry and banal.

This recording is clear and forceful enough to limn the gravitas of the drama, and at the same time red-blooded enough to assure us that human hearts do in fact beat beneath the masks. And if, like me, you don't recognize the names of any of the singers, don't let that put you off--the singing is absolutely first rate throughout.

One review laments the lack of a printed libretto. As of this writing, the Latin libretto can be found, with English translation, in program notes from a 2007 London Symphony performance available online. Search terms stravinsky oedipus gergiev libera 14 May.

This recording, along with the wonderful DVD of the Julie Taymor production (with Langridge, Norman and Terfl), might well convince you that Oedipus Rex is Stravinsky's finest post-"Rite of Spring" composition.
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