Stravinsky: Rite of Spring; Symphony in Three Movements

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Tudor
ALBUM TITLE: Le Sacre du Printemps
WORKS: Rite of Spring; Symphony in Three Movements
PERFORMER: Bamberger Symphoniker/Jonathan Nott
CATALOGUE NO: 7145
‘It haunts me like a beautiful nightmare’ was Claude Debussy’s response to The Rite of Spring; a typically perceptive evocation that should be noted by all conductors of Stravinsky’s seminal ballet. It is all too easy to get caught up in the power and brutality of the score and to overlook the numerous fragile elements that are the key to a truly rounded performance, such as Igor Markevitch’s classic 1959 account. Jonathan Nott and the Bamberger Symphoniker have plenty of shock and awe, notably in the transition to the ‘Glorification of the Chosen One’; but the effect, if not the volume, is muted, while the poetry and excitement is only rarely apparent.

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Placed close after The Rite, like a surly teenager stomping-in, the Symphony in Three Movements fares significantly better, though not enough to challenge Simon Rattle’s masterly account (EMI). Admittedly much of what is heard here might seem to match Stravinsky’s ideals of objectivity, and yet, no matter what he preached, the composer’s own recordings (Sony and others) exude a warmth and humanity.

The SACD sound should be demonstration class, for a tremendous range of detail is captured, and yet the focus is repeatedly skewed. Moreover, whereas most SACDs create a lifelike depth to the sound, here there is an emptiness surrounding the music that makes the vast orchestra sound decidedly lonely.

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Christopher Dingle