Probably the most extraordinary Rite of Spring to have been dreamt up and committed to disc since Stravinsky’s own final (and finest) 1960 recording. Stravinsky himself said, in so many words, that The Rite was born from his unconscious. And although now is not the time or place to ponder to what extent his – and our – unconscious minds are capable (if at all) of harbouring any memories of pre-Christian ritual, suffice it so say that an exceptional performance of The Rite should at least have us thinking about it as a possibility…and about why we respond to The Rite in the way that we do.
Among modern interpreters, I can’t think of anyone better than GergievRead more in the important dual roles of showman and shaman. So many of the score’s darker workings have a striking profile here – tubas bellowing strange moans, the bass drum sending shock waves around the performance space, the lower strings in ‘Spring Rounds’ almost ‘exhaling’ their notes, and, for once, giving a proper foundation to that most significant of quiet chords – the one where the Sage kisses the earth. Indeed, ‘Earth’ and the ‘elemental’ seem not so much cultivated in this performance, as an inherent part of it. It is also a good witness for Wilfrid Mellers’ claim (in Man and His Music: Romanticism and the 20th Century; Barrie & Rockliff: 1962) that ‘[Stravinsky] experiences afresh the sound stuff which is his material, inviting us to listen again to the noises instruments make’ (even if Stravinsky himself is the best witness of all). I can’t remember if I have ever heard as well pitched and projected the very strange ‘noise’ which portions of the lower strings make as the adolescents begin their ‘mystical circles’ (track 10) – those harmonics briefly exposed (from 0'22") as the ‘tune’ breaks off.
Small points maybe, but indicators that Gergiev has either really pondered the ‘sound stuff’ of the Rite, or that it just comes naturally to him and his players. Though whether nature or nurture, the end results make for a marginally more compelling overall listen than all the finest recorded Rites I can think of from the last four decades (among them those by Rattle and Mackerras; the still stunning Markevitch was recorded in 1959). Evocative dynamic shadings – and there are plenty of them – sound entirely natural too. More controversial is some of the timing of ‘events’, especially the delay of the ascent to the final chord, though when it arrives, you wonder if its shocking make-up has ever been as effectively exposed.
The delaying tactics – theatrical pauses and suspensions – worried me a little more in the second half of Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy – along with Gergiev’s extremes of tempo in the piece. It is arguable that Scriabin’s scheme here includes related tempos which allow for something like a single almost unbroken pulse throughout the piece – whether the music happens to be languishing or flying. Pletnev presents it that way, as, more or less, does Muti. And arguably again, the first big moment of arrival – when all those horns take over and expand the trumpet’s assertions (amid the clangour of multiple bell sounds) – is more effective if what has preceded it is sensed as an accumulation rather than a series of radically contrasted episodes. But should one be thinking these thoughts when offered a Poem of Ecstasy which openly embraces the extravagant wonders of the piece as this one does? I doubt it. Better to marvel at all the mysterious curves, the fabulous dark rushes of sound, the celebratory splendours, and the final resolution (dissolution?) into an uncomplicated glory of C major (a moment Gergiev chooses not to delay, but seemingly to hasten into – very welcome!).
Here, as in The Rite, the superb recording is a very important player in the overall success, not least because it allows all the lower voices to make their presence felt as well as heard – freely and fully.
Le sacre du printempsby Igor Stravinsky Conductor:
Kirov Theater Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1911-1913 Date of Recording: 07/1999 Venue: Festival House, Baden-Baden, Germany Length: 34 Minutes 54 Secs. Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913). Composition revised: USA (1943).
Symphony no 4, Op. 54 "Poem of ecstasy"by Alexander Scriabin Conductor:
Kirov Theater Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1905-1908; Russia Date of Recording: 07/1999 Venue: Festival House, Baden-Baden, Germany Length: 20 Minutes 26 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
MAYBE GRAMOPHONE'S CHOICE---BUT NOT MINENovember 5, 2014By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL)See All My Reviews"I just heard this particular performance of Le Sacre on the Classical Masterpieces channel, and I'm not all that sure whether the piece was headed for a train wreck or adagio con schleppo in spots. Maybe both. The orchestra seemed headed in both directions, and as for the conductor: I kept shaking my head in disbelief. No matter what this Gergiev does he still reminds me of Soupy Sales! We played with the guy when I was with the LA Philharmonic, and he reminded me of Soupy even then---more so now. There are other recordings of Le Sacre which I much prefer---Salonen; Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony to name two, and Bernstein is not exactly a slouch when it comes to this piece. I'll go with those. I like to be able to hear everything, not a mulligan stew of sound. :("Report Abuse