Notes and Editorial Reviews
These two scorching performances document the early partnership between Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Under Eugene Ormandy, this orchestra recorded the best-ever Pictures at an Exhibition, but this very different version is scarcely less fine. Muti’s leaner sonority, hard accents, and vivid rhythmic definition offers a different take on the capabilities of this great ensemble, far from Ormandy’s characteristic lushness but no less valid. It remains one of the great recordings of the piece.
However, the real news here was Muti’s Rite of Spring. Ormandy recorded the piece once, for Columbia, in very good mono sonics in the 1950s. That recording has recently reappeared in
Sony’s multi-disc Rite of Spring Anniversary Edition, and it’s interesting for being one of the swiftest versions on disc, and not at all as soft and spongy and we might have been led to expect. Muti’s interpretation, though, is on another level altogether. Sample the “Ritual of the Rival Tribes” from Part One: it has never been played this excitingly, with such unrivaled visceral impact.
The fact that this was the Philadelphia Orchestra only added to the performance’s shock value, and Muti maintains the intensity, precision, and sheer mind-numbing virtuosity right to the end. It really sounds like everyone involved had something to prove, and the engineers rose to the occasion as well with sonics that are bright, full, and well balanced. There are many great “Rites” out there, and this seldom-acknowledged version is certainly one of them.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Period: 20th Century
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