Curtis Chamber Orchestra
Perelman Theater, Philadelphia
Dec. 5

Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score Pulchinella resurfaces in the concert hall every few years in its Suite form. The composer truncated it himself for orchestra and it has a stately and easy access Igor vigor. It is rarely done with the original score’s vocal sections and is thereby completely castrated.

The full score is actually a Stravinsky masterwork (the ballet produced by Diagalev, with costumes by Picasso). It is sublimely restored by conductor Joel Smirnoff and the musicians of the Curtis Chamber Orchestra for a Sunday concert at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Those mighty Curtis’ strings are often the best outfit in town as far as sonic power, but for Pulchinella they also scaled down building the work’s baroque quality. But it is the unconventionally structured vocal interplay with orchestra, probably one reason why just the orchestral version is done, that just reasserts this as a major ballet-vocal score sung with intimacy and conviction by three soloists. Hearing Kirten Mackinnon silvery soprano, Julian Arsenault’s unfussy bass baritone and Christopher Tiesi’s mercury tenor, you don’t want to hear just the Suite again. Other standouts were Wenmin Zhang’s Bassoon and Samuel Nemic Oboe whose wending reed lines were clarion Stravinsky.