Here, for what is probably the first time on CD, Gardiner goes for Stravinsky, and while a nitpicker might point out that Rake is Stravinsky's "Mozartean" opera, let's face it--it's real Stravinsky. Gardiner manages the composer's angles and strange rhythms superbly, and he concentrates on the lower instruments as well (the engineers assist nicely throughout), leading a fleet, ironic performance of this tough work while underlining the score's sweetnesses as well. It doesn't hurt that he has the finest cast available: Bryn Terfel's Nick Shadow is amazingly nuanced, and only once or twice does the great bass-baritone do his infamous "whispering act." He's positively chilling in the graveyard scene. And what can one say about Ian Bostridge as the titular rake? When he says, "I wish I had money!" in Act I, he's Everyman; he wins us over and we feel for him no matter how stupid he is. He's a bit stressed at the very top of his range in the one or two forte passages, but considering how clever this artist is, it wouldn't be a surprise if he's doing it on purpose. Deborah York is such a fine Anne--singing with clean, white, innocent tone--that she even outdoes Dawn Upshaw's splendid portrayal. Anne Sophie Von Otter sings Baba's music impeccably (and in unaccented English), but, as usual, she seems more distinguished and artistic than moving.
Deutsche Grammophon 459 648-2