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Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Stravinsky • Berg • Weber
Berg: Fragments from Wozzeck; Ligeti: Mysteries of the Macabre; Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
Barbara Hannigan (soprano); London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
LSO Live LSO 3028  (Blu-Ray)


The Rite of Spring does not dominate here, not because the performance is lame. Rather, it is part of something truly exceptional, joined here by masterpieces from Webern, Berg and Ligeti in performances of outstanding beauty, passion and power. This film captures a concert at the Barbican from January 2015, when the public courtship between the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle was still ongoing and their artistic marriage not yet certain. Their mutual suitability is confirmed by the remarkable control and ravishing timbres produced in Webern’s Six Orchestral Pieces. As for the Rite, Rattle may have half-a-dozen recordings under his belt, but there is nothing pedestrian or run-of-the-mill here. Every nuance is crafted, each detail considered, yet there is still a sense of danger and visceral power. If only the set included surround sound in addition to both Blu-ray and DVD discs.

Rattle and the LSO are joined, usurped even, by the extraordinary Barbara Hannigan for extracts from two contrasting operatic landmarks. Her intensity of expression in Berg’s Three Fragments from Wozzeck, mirrored by the LSO’s depth of sonority, is disturbing and moving. Transformed into a stroppy, anarchic schoolgirl alongside a schoolmasterly Rattle, she then brings the house down in Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre. Make no mistake, the laugh-out-loud high spirits are underpinned by virtuosic, serious music-making of the highest order from Hannigan, the LSO and Rattle. And that’s before the Rite even begins.

Christopher Dingle


Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.