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Vasily Petrenko conducts a celebration of Spring

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Debussy • Rachmaninov • Stravinsky
Debussy: Printemps; Rachmaninov: Spring Cantata; Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Rodion Pogassov (baritone); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Onyx Classics ONYX 4182

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Spring is the theme of three relatively youthful works. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring provides the substantive, cathartic climax, but Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) preface it with two lesser known pieces by Rachmaninov and Debussy. Petrenko is a convincing advocate for the latter’s Printemps, an attractive work that, despite several moments that are prophetic of the composer’s mature style, struggles to establish its distinctiveness.

Rachmaninov’s Vasna (Spring) is a mini drama written for Fyodor Chaliapin with choral interventions. Rodion Pogassov is affecting here as the soloist musing about murdering his unfaithful wife only for the joys of Spring to change his mind. It is a pity the hushed conclusion is given no time to sink in, the opening bassoon solo of Stravinsky’s ballet arriving after just a few seconds. This is soon forgiven, though, for this is a searing account of the Rite. Petrenko judges the speeds acutely, always insistent, without simply trying to set landspeed records, and there’s a visceral energy to the RLPO’s playing, the orchestra cultivating a rawness of sound. While this permeates the wind, it is most apparent in the upper strings, whose notes are often treated more as striking effects, a sense exaggerated by their periodically being thrust forward in the recorded sound. If the opening of Part II lacks a little poetry, that is a small caveat in a thrilling Rite.

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Christopher Dingle