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Ancerl Gold Edition 5 - Stravinsky: Petrushka, Rite Of Spring

Release Date: 09/24/2002 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 3665   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: n/a 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There are many reasons why appreciation of Karel Ancerl's art has been so long in coming, not least of which has been the spotty availability of his recordings. But even more important has been the (welcome) evolution of our definition of what constitutes "greatness" in a conductor--a shift away from the Beethoven/Brahms tradition of German standards in favor of a later generation of composers such as Mahler, Russians like Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and other contemporary giants such as Bartók and Stravinsky. For although Ancerl conducted excellent Brahms (and of course Dvorák), he was without question one of the great interpreters of 20th century music, beginning with Mahler, and including Bartók, Martinu, Read more Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and above all, Stravinsky.

It's amazing just how much Stravinsky Ancerl recorded--not just the early ballets, but also Les Noces, Oedipus Rex, Symphony of Psalms, the Violin Concerto, and such rarely heard works as the Mass and the Cantata. No other major conductor active in the 1960s aside from Ansermet (and excluding the composer himself) recorded a broader range of Stravinky's works, and Ancerl also had the singular advantage over all comers of having at his disposal the Czech Philharmonic at its absolute post-War peak. In 1962/63, when these performances were taped, only Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic belonged remotely in the same league regarding interpretive excellence combined with technical quality, and even today the ensemble precision of the Czech Philharmonic remains a marvel to behold. That makes these recordings landmarks in the history of Stravinsky interpretation on disc.

Both of these performances benefit from the Czech Philharmonic's razor-sharp articulation and perfect rhythm, and from Ancerl's vital and vibrant way with the music. Just listen, for example, to the way that the trumpet interjections at the opening of Petrushka perfectly balance the lighter-toned flutes, making actual phrases out of Stravinsky's kaleidoscopic musical fragments. Small details like this herald a great conductor at work with a great orchestra, much more so than obvious affectations and attention-getting tempo adjustments. Witness the sparkle Ancerl brings to the Russian Dance and the coloristic instrumental touches that characterize the various episodes in the Fourth Tableau. Not only does Ancerl revel in the work's details, he also gives the entire piece a context, capturing its mechanical, puppet-like, cartoon qualities in such a way as to convey the spirit as well as the letter of the score.

Ancerl's Rite of Spring always has numbered among the select reference editions. It's not just spectacularly played, with an especially exciting and savage Sacrificial Dance; the actual sound of the Czech Philharmonic, with its earthy wind timbres, bright trumpets, and unblended sonorities evokes the music's primitivism and roots in Russian musical folklore far more vividly than many a more obvious, "con blasto" approach. Without ever downplaying the big moments (and has the Procession of the Sage ever sounded more terrifying?), Ancerl wrings every scrap of lyricism from such sections as Spring Rounds or the introduction to Part II. As noted above, the recordings are a bit shallow in the bass and dynamically constricted (yet clear and well balanced), even if this transfer has opened up the top end somewhat (at the expense of string tone); but by emphasizing musical values first and foremost, Ancerl ensures that this fact never becomes a major liability. These performances should serve as cornerstones in any Stravinsky collection.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Pétrouchka by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 03/1962 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911).
Composition revised: 1947. 
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 03/1963 

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