Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite, Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet (2018)

Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Noriaki Kitamura

The Firebird Suite 1919 Version
Commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, The Firebird was Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) first piece for the Ballets Russes company. Hailed as a success when it was premiered in Paris in 1910, the work instantly thrust Stravinsky, still unknown at the time, into ranks of the most famous Western composers. Stravinsky himself conducted the piece on numerous occasions. 

Romeo and Juliet Overture 3rd Version
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1849-1893), the first modern Russian composer to receive worldwide recognition, began this work at the age of 29 at the yrging of his seions Mily Balakirev. It was premiered the following year. The chamring melody, tone-color of the brilliant orchestration, intensely emotional expression, and delicate structure combine to realize a level of remarkable perfection comparable to that of Tchaikovsky's later masterpieces.

'Polonaise' from Act 3 of Eugene Onegin
The piece of dance music, origination in Poland, is part of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin (composed in 1877 and 1878), which was based on a novel in verse by Russia's greatest poet Alexander Pushkin.

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Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra played its inaugural concert on November 5, 1901 in the newly- opened Philharmonic Hall. Led by its first artistic director and principal conductor Emil M?ynarski, the performance featured the world-renowned pianist and composer Ignace Jan Paderewski as soloist. The orchestra quickly became the main centre of musical activity in Poland in the years preceding and following World War I. Nearly all the leading conductors and soloists of the day appeared with the orchestra, including Grieg, Honegger, Klemperer, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Horowitz, Rubinstein, and Sarasate.
The outbreak of World War II temporarily halted the activities of the Philharmonic; its auditorium was destroyed. In the first post-war years, the Philharmonic was led by Straszy?ski and Panufnik who were superseded in January 1950 by Witold Rowicki as its director and principal conductor. Despite difficult working conditions, the orchestra was reorganised and began touring abroad. On February 21, 1955 the rebuilt Philharmonic Hall was re-opened and the orchestra received the status of the National Orchestra of Poland.
In January 2002 Maestro Antoni Wit assumed the post of General and Artistic Director of the Warsaw Philharmonic – The National Orchestra and Choir of Poland. Today both the Orchestra and Choir have wide-reaching popularity and acclaim. Both ensembles have completed over one hundred tours on five continents and appear in major musical venues worldwide. Each season the Philharmonic presents over 80 symphony concerts. The orchestra has made numerous recordings which have garnered multiple awards and distinctions.

Noriaki Kitamura

Noriaki Kitamura was born in 12 December 1949 in Kobe, Japan. His father is a conductor of an amateur chorus group, and he has two uncles who are conductors. One is a Professor of conducting at Osaka College of Music. The other uncle was a conductor in the USA till death, 1988.

At the age of 12, Noriaki Kitamura began to learn flute. When he was 15 he made his debut as a Flutist. After a time, he studied at a music department in Kyoto Municipal Unitversity of Art.

When he was a student, he began to be active as a Flute soloist. After graduation from the university, he learned conducting with Prof. Kazuwo Yamada, who was a great conductor in Japan. He was an assistant to his professor. At the same time, he performed many operas, under Mr. Takashi Asahina  who is the elder-statesman conductor of Japan. This was a rare opportunity in Japan. He was very fortunate. During that time, he learned many operas repertoire. Then he became an anomaly opera conductor in a country that has no opera house.

In 1981 his debut was "Oedipus Rex" (I. Stravinsky). His conducting and the production had good review. A critic said of his 1991 performance of "Die Zauberflote" (W.A. Mozart) with production by Mr. Sanshi Kathura, a famous comic storyteller. Noriaki Kitamura conducted in a traditional and dignified performance. In 1995, when he performance selections from "Lohen-Grin" (R.Wagner), a critic commented. "When the finally tone was finished, the symphony hall was covered with stillness. We were deep moved." Recently, his performances show maturity and high quality of art.

In 1994, at Olomouc, Czech Republic, "The third Inter-nation-al Masterclass For Conductors" by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra was opened. Noriaki Kitamura was given Diploma for best interpretation of Robert Schumann's Symphony NO.4 in d Minor.


Noriaki Kitamura's take on interpretation, tempi in particular

It is natural for a musician to aim to play with good sound, but we are also committed to faithfully reproduce the intents of the composers.

By using the original text score as much as possible, reviewing autographs, and considering the composers' feelings at the time of composition, we aim to perform with sympathy to the composers' thoughts.

I do not think that this is contrary to the tendency to seek entertainment by listeners nowadays.

I do not think that composers were that different in their emotions from people now. For example, even with the development of transportation and science, even without things such as airplanes, there has been no big change in the beauties of nature.

For example, I am often criticized about tempi. How should one understand the fast tempo notations of the time? I have my own solution to this.

Metronomes of that time were not incomplete in any way. I just think the measurements were not very accurate. For example, previously, the human pulse was a criterion for measuring tempi, as can be found in book descriptions such as those by Dolmetsch and Emanuel Bach. That criterion is 80 per minute. Nowadays, this is 10% faster than standard. By analogy then, when tempo notations described in the scores are regarded as 10% faster, the resulting real tempo is quite convincing. I do not think that the human heart rate has changed from that of people long ago. The composers are from at most 300 years ago, and most are from just 100 years ago. There are other issues regarding tempi, for example, performer and instrument issues, as well as the problem of reverberation in the venues. Regarding this, my conscience as a musician, as I first mentioned, dictates that I consider finding the best sound quality as my top priority. That's how I arrive at these tempi. It is never set just for the excitement.

Everything is for a good sound. This is my policy towards performance.

photo: from booklet Beethoven Symphony No. 3

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NKB503: Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite, Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet
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Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite 1919
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Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture 1880 ver.
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Tchaikovsky Polonaise from Opera Eugen Onegin
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