WORKS: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Revueltas: La noche de los Mayas
PERFORMER: Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 8775
With the challenges of several great symphonies vigorously met, the young virtuosos of Caracas move to an arguably easier project. Easier, that is, as long as they can feel the Rite’s rhythms and avoid imprisoning them between barlines. These days, we can expect the necessary instrumental technique and musicians who can judge the weighting of a Beethoven chord should have no trouble with the early Moderns.
Even so… Dudamel not only gets them to deliver, but delivers something more: a Rite that develops thrilling momentum twice over, fast but without haste. It’s the outcome of well-judged pacing and an awareness that extremes of pace and weight have to be kept for real climaxes (the ‘Danse de la terre’ and ‘Rondes de printemps’, respectively). Details are fine, unexaggerated, and they add up – except a couple of times when the bass drum overwhelms the somewhat rotund acoustic. The intensity is constant and unusual.
In a unique and exhilarating sequence, La noche de los Mayas (Mayan Night) eventually takes the excitement a notch further. Originally a film score, it was posthumously turned into the present four-part suite by two further composers to make one of Revueltas’s most lucid and engaging works.
Dudamel draws you in with the big swaying chords at the start, before a winding melody oddly like Rachmaninov. But it’s the finale, with 11 percussionists in cadenza and then driving the whole orchestra on, that truly electrifies. Astonishing playing; astonishing music. Robert Maycock