Stravinsky: Petrushka; The Rite of Spring
Rite of Spring fever is well and truly upon us this year. A showcase for both orchestras and sound engineers, few works can match the Rite for sheer quantity of recordings, yet it has lost none of its capacity to thrill. Nonetheless, while it is great that record companies are not just mining their extensive back catalogues, any newcomer confronts a daunting legacy. Even more so for a recording made with a French orchestra in Paris.
Maybe realisation of this heritage had a stultifying effect on Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France. While there is plenty of detail and some fine playing, it is hard to imagine anyone dancing to this Rite, never mind raising a fist. There are periodic sparks of life, but they invariably become damp squibs. This is more death by lethal injection than frenzied sacrificial dance.
Gatti’s Petrushka is even more frustrating. While it is hard to imagine his ‘Russian Dance’ bringing the puppets to life, there are some magical moments, such as the inventive sonorities at Petrushka’s death. Yet they are repeatedly spoilt, Petrushka’s ghost inducing not so much disquiet as a shrug of the shoulders. Yoel Levi (Telarc) and Igor Markevitch (Testament) are hard to beat in the Rite, as is Rattle’s CBSO account (EMI) which can now be bought with his equally fine Petrushka.