When Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Orchestra recorded The Rite of Spring, they teamed Stravinsky’s ballet with spring-inspired pieces by Debussy and Rachmaninov. Their coupling for The Firebird is even more apt. Stravinsky was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov, and his first ballet, written in 1910, is close stylistically to his mentor’s lush exoticism. The opera Le Coq d’Or (The Golden Cockerel) was completed in 1907, a year before the composer’s death. The orchestral suite was put together posthumously by Glazounov and Steinberg. Both works are based on fairy tales and centre around magic birds: Stravinsky’s firebird who saves Prince Ivan, and Rimsky’s golden cockerel who crows when King Dodon is in danger. (And
he should know! At the end, he pecks the King to death.)

The orchestra is superb. Petrenko never forgets that the music tells a story: he finds tenderness in The Firebird’s Round Dance, menace in Kashchei’s Infernal Dance, and warmth in the rich string harmonies that colour so much of this ballet. He is fully alive to the drama of the Coq d’Or, especially its frenzied final moments, and highly characterful elsewhere. (Try the seductive clarinet depicting the Queen of Shemahka).

Recordings abound: Firebirds with Salonen, Rattle, and Stravinsky himself; Cockerels with Mehta, Maazel, Dorati and Kurtz, but Pertrenko’s coupling is unique, brilliantly played, and reproduced in sensational sound.

Composer: Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov
Composition: The Firebird, Le Coq d’Or Suite
Performer: Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko
Catalogue Number: ONYX ONYX4175