On the playlist, or that is a lot of Stravinsky

Here’s my Last.fm Top Artists chart for the past week (June 1-June 8, 2008):

[Last.fm Top Artists, June 1-June 8, 2008]

I usually only ever get maybe 30 or 40 plays from a single artist, maximum, on any given week. But 170 plays for Igor Stravinsky? What gives? A rather convenient boxed set titled The Works of Igor Stravinsky, that’s what.

I bought it on the same day I wasted cash on Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre. I already had quite a packed playlist at the time, and I knew I would probably only ever listen to this boxed set during a listening lull. Well, I’m in the middle of a listening lull.

It’s not surprising Amazon would already be sold out of this collection, which was released by Sony BMG Masterworks back in July 2007. I bought it from Waterloo Records at the jaw-dropping price of $36. Do the math, and it comes out to $1.36 per disc.

The packaging itself is a quite … minimalist. There’s no fancy booklet going into the detailed history of the recordings in the set, just an 6-panel booklet pretty much saying, "Hey, listen to Stravinsky conduct his own works." All of the discs are housed in cardboard sleeves, no jewel cases, let alone digipaks.

The recordings themselves also seem fairly rustic. Nowhere is an indication these recordings were gussied up in anyway — no remastering, no alternate takes.

But hot damn, is there a lot of music here!

Till now, I’ve only been familiar with Stravinsky’s greatest hits — Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), Petrushka Suite, Pulcinella Suite, Symphony in Three Movements. As much as I’ve studied him and read about him over the years, I haven’t listened to very much of his works.

I remember someone telling me a long time ago that the Rite was the most daring Stravinsky ever got — he seriously backed down after that. As I’m listening to these works, those words ring rather true. Save for his 12-tone works, not much he did after the Rite really grabs my attention.

At this point, I’m just letting the entire set wash over me — I’m not listening too closely to any one thing. There’s just way too much. I haven’t gotten around to the operas or the longer ballet scores. I do want to give Symphony In C a bit more a chance, and maybe at some point I’ll be able to sit through the entire Requiem Canticles.

But for sheer convenience, a 22-disc set of Stravinsky conducting his own pieces is a fairly good bargain at $36.