Igor Stravinsky rehearses the BSO in Le Baiser de la Fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) on February 7, 1949. Several years ago, I ran a series of several of these rehearsal broadcasts; extremely informative, illustrative and in some cases some of the few cases of hearing great conductors and soloists at work, shaping performances. It was several broadcasts from the 1949-1950 (and 1948 in a couple cases) season, and when I had run out of them, was asked by several readers if there were more. Yes there were, but I wasn’t able to locate them (200,000 tapes in storage boxes) – but promised when I found them I would post them. Well, sorry it’s taken so long, but the wait is finally over and this next batch of rehearsal broadcasts will be showing up over the next few weeks.
As I said a few years ago, these aren’t the full performances – and because they had to conform to time restrictions, only a half-hour snippet was available live – sometimes you hit the “sweet spot” in the rehearsal and other times it was down-to-earth and no-frills. But this is a hugely instructive series of recordings; not only to hear what was going on in this non-performance atmosphere, but to also dive into the inner workings of a symphony orchestra and how a performance evolves – particularly in a situation such as this, when it’s the composer who is also the conductor. It puts a different shade on things and lends itself to more authority – luckily for everyone, Stravinsky was a prolific performer and almost all his works were recorded with him in charge (even though it’s been said longtime associate Robert Craft had a hand in some of the performances). But it’s delightful and makes for interesting and engaging listening – especially if you’ve experienced the joys of working in an orchestra.