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Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps, Perséphone / Nagano

Release Date: 09/10/2002 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 61249   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Anne FournetAnthony Rolfe Johnson
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

"A humanist Rite of Spring" was Elliott Carter's description of Persephone. Classical Greece replaces pagan Russia and there is, in this "melodrama" bursting at the seams with symbolism, even a detectable Christian message: Andre Gide's poem, derived from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Earth Mother), has the Goddess Persephone (her daughter) accepting self-sacrifice to bring love and pity to those in the Underworld. And in the final section, "Persephone reborn", Stravinsky's setting of the choral invocation for Persephone's (Spring's) return is, in Robert Craft's words, "a veritable Russian Easter".

This new Persephone should hopefully mark a rebirth in the work's fortunes. Given its
Read more immediately appealing lyricism and lucid textures, it is extraordinary to report that Nagano's is the first recording since the composer's own (made in 1966 and part of the Sony Classical Complete Edition). Predictably, a modern dynamic range benefits both the thrilling theatre of that invocation (culminating in a triple forte cry of "Printemps" as powerful as anything in The Rite), as well as the still calm of Persephone's first vision of the Underworld in Part One. How marvellous, too, to hear Persephone's spoken lines rolling off the tongue with all the grace and ease exclusive to a native francaise, in this case Anne Fournet (daughter of the conductor, Jean Fournet). Anthony Rolfe Johnson's Eumolpus (the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries) is both authoritative and expressive. Unlike his predecessor, he can cope with the role's high tessitura without strain and his pitching is more secure.

Stravinsky himself upgraded quite a few of his own tempo indications, Nagano more so—there is a case for regarding Eumolpus's solo at fig. 118 (track 2, 8'41") as too extreme: quaver = 84 is the marking, Stravinsky is at about 100, Nagano at about 125—but I can find no evidence of undue haste. Pacing throughout seems to reflect the music's natural gradations of tension. Indeed Persephone's final address, at a more flowing tempo with reciter and flutes ideally distanced in the warm acoustic of London's Blackheath Concert Halls, is a cherishable moment of tender limpidity.

EMI's Abbey Road is the venue for Nagano's Rite, a leaner sound of startling clarity (should one be able to hear the contrabassoon this consistently in the final "Danse sacrale"?). Perhaps this Rite is not as urgently renewing as Rattle's (EMI). Nagano does not emphasize the struggle and strangeness of instruments often playing in extreme registers (the opening bassoon solo is relatively bland). But neither does he resort to a more conventional heavy handed assault and battery, like the recent Mehta (Teldec). It is, however, an uncommonly fresh Rite from first note to last; athletic, sharply emphatic, and light and airy of texture. Not perhaps a first choice for the work, but an enjoyable addition to an indispensable Persephone.

-- Gramophone [6/1992]
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Works on This Recording

Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943). 
Perséphone by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Anne Fournet (Spoken Vocals), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1934; France 

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