Stravinsky • Stokowski/Bach

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky; Stokowski/Bach
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky • Stokowski/Bach
WORKS: Rite of Spring; Pastorale; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565; Fugue in G minor, BWV 578; Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
PERFORMER: Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin


Another Rite of Spring? Yes, and an absorbing one. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, mercifully, pulls no special stunts upon the listener. His is not an attention-seeking performance, but one which harnesses the exceptional virtuosity of the Philadelphia players towards actually making music of a score too often subjected to the crash-bang-wallop treatment.

That’s not to say that raw power is missing. Listen, for example, to the ‘Danse de la Terre’ concluding Part 1, and feel the mounting excitement generated by pinpoint string ostinatos and some sensationally pointillistic trumpet playing. And the crescendo keeps on building: how many times, in this climactic passage, have you heard an orchestra firing all its rockets off too early?

In the initial paragraphs of Part 1 there’s much exquisitely diaphanous playing, with textures of Debussyan delicacy. Note too how the percussion is scrupulously terraced dynamically, enabling a level of textural discrimination available to few orchestras or conductors. In Part 2 there’s a logical fluidity to Nézet-Séguin’s tempos that draws the ear ineluctably forward to the concluding ‘Danse sacrale’, where the playing has both heft and pliant elasticity.

Keen as Nézet-Séguin is to celebrate the Philadelphia tradition, I’d have preferred a coupling slightly more substantial than the four Stokowski transcriptions provided. But it’s good to hear the orchestra on a major label again, and this is certainly a Rite I’ll be returning to for sustenance.


Terry Blain