Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Canticum Sacrum; Requiem Canticles; Chorale Variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her’ (Bach)

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Rite of Spring; Canticum Sacrum; Requiem Canticles; Chorale Variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her’ (Bach)
PERFORMER: Irène Friedli (alto), Frieder Lang (tenor), Michel Brodard (bass); Lausanne Pro Arte Choir, Romande Chamber Choir, Suisse Romande Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9408 DDD
Two spectacular new recordings of The Rite of Spring – indeed, I don’t remember ever having heard some of the details of its scoring with quite such clarity: the delicate sound of the antique cymbals easily discernible amid the huge tutti of the ‘Dance of the Adolescents’ on the Ashkenazy disc, for instance; or the scraping sound of the güiro lending its touch of exoticism to the ‘Procession of the Sage’ on the Järvi. Both performances are remarkably fine, too, though I found Ashkenazy rather slow in the ‘Glorification of the Victim’, and Järvi a touch fast in the ‘Ritual Action of the Ancestors’; and Järvi’s accelerando during the famous eleven hammer blows that precede the ‘Glorification of the Chosen One’ is a misjudgement.

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The Ashkenazy disc appropriately couples The Rite of Spring with Stravinsky’s other ritualistic Diaghilev ballet score, Les noces, again admirably performed; while Järvi enterprisingly opts for late Stravinsky. It is good to have a new recording of the austere and seldom performed Canticum sacrum, together with its Venetian companion-piece, the Chorale Variations. The Requiem Canticles is a hauntingly beautiful score, and one whose concluding bell sounds seem to stretch back over more than four decades, to the final page of Les noces. Misha Donat