There are numerous recordings, several with downloads available. The following is only a selection.
The recording which is probably most accessible to most of you is Robert Craft’s (2001) on Naxos 8.557504 because, as well as being the cheapest CD to buy, I presume it will also be available online to members of OU staff and members of Bucks County Library. This has been praised for its accuracy to the score, and particularly to Stravinsky’s metronome markings. The choral singing is indeed accurate and good, and it’s particularly clear in the second movement and the fast sections of the third movement which, for different reasons, present the greatest challenges. I do, however, find the choral-orchestral perspective sometimes surprisingly odd for a modern recording, and the overall pacing slightly pedantic.
I can see why the 1966 recording by Karel Ancerl held its place in the charts for so long: his forthright approach and the strong choral sound serve Stravinsky well. The 2003 remastering of this Supraphon recording has also been highly praised. SU 3674-2 211.
The recording by Westmminster Cathedral Choir under James O’Donnell on Hyperion CDA66437 was widely applauded at the time of its release in 1991 and justifiably so. This really is a very good performance, and stylish, and seems to me to indicate two things: firstly, that performances of this piece and in this style are now coming of age; and second, how healthy and sophisticated the British choral tradition is. My only reservation is that a combination of a slight English sweetness and perhaps the very resonant acoustic occasionally take the edge off the clarity required in this particular piece.
Pierre Boulez astonished audiences in the 1970s with the accuracy and polish of his performances of twentieth-century repertoire. His complete Stravinsky recordings are available on Deutsche Gramophon 477 8730 at the bargain price of £19.17 for 6 CDs (from Presto Classical, currently offering 40% reduction on boxed sets). I would call his reading of the Symphony of Psalms a composer’s performance – not completely transparent in every detail but beautifully paced and persuasive as a whole. It seems to me to be lovingly performed – it’s as though he has got beyond all the technical and practical obstacles and to a place where he is contented and relaxed with the piece.
It is always worth hearing Stravinsky’s recordings of his own music. He recorded this piece three times and his Feb. 1931 recording is available as part of a 3-CD set from Andante SC-A-1100. This recording is remarkable for having been made just two months after the premiere, and by different performers. It’s of considerable historical interest as an insight into the composer’s interpretative intentions, although of course that depends on whether he got what he wanted out of the performers. I wouldn’t recommend it as a model of choral tone, but on the other hand it does have a wild, granitic primitiveness which is not inappropriate. And some surprising speeds.
I have been given a loan of a recording from the BBC Music Magazine Collection (BBC MM299) by the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra conducted by (I think) Andrew Davis (the sleeve is somewhat confusing about attribution). It’s a live performance from the Barbican, slightly rhythmically unstable at first but excellently sung throughout by this amateur chorus – British again. In the middle of the second movement it finds its focus and the third movement is very good, the final peroration masterly. I’m uncertain whether it’s available to buy.
Richard Seaton has found, on the Naxos website, a performance by Herreweghe with Collegium Vocale Gent which he says ‘sounds lovely and is a modern full sound which is exciting to listen to’.”