Album Title: Stravinsky The Firebird & Symphony of Psalms
Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (conductor Andris Nelsons)
Label: Orfeo
Playing time: 68'00"
Recorded:  Birmingham Symphony Hall – 2009.

Young Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra pair two of Igor Stravinsky's masterpieces on this latest Orfeo release, The Firebird and the Symphony of Psalms. Nelsons studied with Alexander Titov and Maris Jansons and reached international recognition when he succeeded Simon Rattle in Birmingham in 2008. This present Stravinsky 'medley' was hardly ever practiced in the past and juxtaposes the fairytale impressionist dimension of Russian ballet against the austere style of the monumental Symphony of Psalms.

This reading considers The Firebird in a distinctly symphonic perspective and is thus closer to Dorati's multi-colored reference with the LSO than the ultra-transparent version of Dohnanyi with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The CBSO delivers even the softer string textures but generally shines with amazing intensity and ensemble coherence. The energy that emerges from several famous passages such as the "Capture of Tsarevich" or "Kastchei's death" is quite unique in fact and even more impressive than what Boulez delivered in Chicago in 1993.

As to the other side of Stravinsky' repertoire, Nelsons consciously follows the score and respects the ritualistic nature and orthodox roots of the Symphony of Psalms by avoiding any excess of spiritual or emotional fervor. The talented chorus trained by Simon Hartley is in complete harmony with the conductor's vision which reinforce the overall sensation of fullness. This is a well-balanced interpretation that should captivate the listener from beginning through the "Laudate Dominum" end.

The contrast between these two worlds might be a real shock but the art of transition and the control of the repertoire are of the first order. Outstanding in every respect, the CBSO under the inspired leadership of Andris Nelsons demonstrates it can be held to the very highest international standards. Nelsons shows once again that he's part already of the very select circle of Stravinsky's best contemporary interpreters. Bravo!