Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Firebird Suite; Scherzo; Tango
There is no shortage of Rite of Spring recordings and the bar is set very high for newcomers. Iván Fischer and his Budapest forces possess the right ingredients: the orchestra is well drilled in an interpretation that’s as straight as a Roman road; its strings are searing, and brass and woodwind play in the clipped manner favoured by Stravinsky. In short, it’s what the composer said he wanted from a performance of this music.
The problem is that Stravinsky did not practise what he preached. Even when he did, the results were more gripping than this. No matter how expertly played or accurate in its adherence to the score, this performance remains curiously and stubbornly uninvolving.
And if you thought this might at least be a satisfactory surround-sound experience, then think again. The lower brass and percussion seem to be located about 50 yards behind the rest of the orchestra, while the strings are a mess in ‘The Ritual of Abduction’. The Firebird Suite and shorter pieces fare rather better, with tender beauty in ‘The Princesses’ Round Dance’. The ‘Infernal Dance’ and ‘Finale’ come close to raising the hairs on the back of the neck – sadly too late.