Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

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COMPOSERS: Poulenc,Stravinsky
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Poulenc: Les biches
PERFORMER: National Chorus of Wales; National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer

A curious juxtaposition on the face of it. The sophisticated apparent frippery of Poulenc’s Les Biches does not appear to make a natural bedfellow for the primitivism of The Rite of Spring. The girl dancing herself to death to propitiate the gods of Spring in Stravinsky’s seminal ballet seems to be a world away from the challenges to gender and sexual stereotypes of Les Biches . And yet, Poulenc captures the spirit of the 1920s as effectively as The Rite seems to bring the curtain down on the Belle Epoque on the eve of the First World War.
While this may be an inspired pairing, recorded at the same concert at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, it is harder to make the aesthetic lurch listening to the disc without inserting an interval. Especially so as this is a no nonsense, hard-driven account of The Rite, sure to raise the pulse rate. Both the ‘Dance of the earth’ and ‘Sacrificial dance’ combine searing energy and precision, all captured in excellent sound. At times it is a little emotionless, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Fischer avoiding the mannerisms that beset some versions.
Unsurprisingly, the orchestra is not quite as fired-up for the Poulenc, with some textures being just a touch ragged. Nonetheless, it bounces along as genially as the Rite is menacing. It is wonderful to have the complete ballet for once, especially the rarely heard choruses, making it a pity the texts are not included. Christopher Dingle