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Stravinsky: Rite of Spring; Firebird (Paris/Mäkelä)

Orchestre de Paris/Klaus Mäkelä (Decca)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
485 3946_Makela

Rite of Spring; Firebird (1910 version)
Orchestre de Paris/Klaus Mäkelä
Decca 485 3946   83:21 mins

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Aged 27, Klaus Mäkelä is very much a rising star – his stunning complete Sibelius cycle with the Oslo Philharmonic (released last year) won plaudits in these pages. Here he helms the Orchestre de Paris, of which he has been artistic director since September 2021, in two of Stravinsky’s most frequently recorded works. A reckless choice of repertoire, perhaps, though one might have hoped for a similar impulsiveness in their interpretation by this young conductor.

In these richly detailed and technically demanding scores, his orchestra sounds both glamorous and immaculate, complemented by a detailed yet well-balanced recording. But where is that hoped-for impulsiveness? The polyphonic lines of the Rite’s opening, carefully presented and glowing with sonic beauty, lack any semblance of spontaneous life.

One has only to hear the orchestra’s recording with a previous music director, Daniel Barenboim (on Elatus), to hear what is missing – the strain of the opening bassoon solo is surely an intended part of its character, as is the grit and grain in the string playing that follows. Above all, with Barenboim there is a sense that the music is alive and motivated – spring is truly burgeoning. Nor does Mäkelä convey any ferocity or sense of drama, though his limpid reading of the opening of Part II has a certain beauty.

The Firebird is less disappointing, as Mäkelä does justice to its wonderfully glowing and inventive orchestration. But the title character herself lacks the febrile qualities required – Scriabin, the composer Stravinsky heavily cribbed here, appears well outside Mäkelä’s current horizon.

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Daniel Jaffé