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Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps - 100th Anniversary Collectors Edition [20-CD Set]


Release Date: 12/11/2012 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001780902  
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Andrei GavrilovVladimir AshkenazyGüher PekinelSüher Pekinel,   ... 
Conductor:  Antal DorátiRiccardo ChaillyPierre BoulezValery Gergiev,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony OrchestraCleveland OrchestraKirov Theater Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 20 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



STRAVINSKY Le Sacre du printemps & various DECCA 478 3729 (20 CDs: 21:33:49)


& STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto. Samuel Dushkin (vln); Igor Stravinsky, cond; O des Concerts Lamoureux


Eduard van Beinum; Concertgebouw O (9/1946) 32:08


Ernest Ansermet; O de la Suisse Romande (10/1950) 33: 56 Read more


Antal Doráti; Minneapolis SO (12/1953) 31:18


Ferenc Fricsay; RIAS SO Berlin (3/1954) 33:39


Rudolf Albert; O des Cento Soli (4/1956) 33:37


Pierre Monteux; Paris Conservatory O (11/1956) 32:57


Ernest Ansermet; O de la Suisse Romande (4/1957) 33: 52


Antal Doráti; Minneapolis SO (11/1959) 29:56


Herbert von Karajan; Berlin P (10/1963) 33:38


Colin Davis; London SO (11/1963) 30:29


Zubin Mehta; Los Angeles P (8/1969) 32:54


Michael Tilson Thomas; Boston SO (11/1972) 34:00


Bernard Haitink; London PO (2/1973) 34:07


Erich Leinsdorf; London PO (12/1973) 33:26


Lorin Maazel; Vienna PO (3/1974) 33:41


Georg Solti; Chicago SO (5/1974) 32:12


Claudio Abbado; London SO (2/1975) 33:17


Colin Davis; Concertgebouw O (11/1976) 34:47


Herbert von Karajan; Berlin P (1/1977) 34:18


Simon Rattle; National Youth O of Great Britain (1977) 33:33


Seiji Ozawa; Boston SO (12/1979) 32:37


Antal Doráti; Detroit SO (5/1981) 33:31


Leonard Bernstein; Israel PO (4/1982) 36:57


Charles Dutoit; Montreal SO (5/1984) 35:08


Riccardo Chailly; Cleveland O (11/1985) 32:34


Pierre Boulez; Cleveland O (3/1991) 33:15


Georg Solti; Royal Concertgebouw O (9/1991) 33:55


James Levine; Metropolitan Op O (5/1992) 33:28


Vladimir Ashkenazy; Deutsche SO Berlin (3/1994) 34:29


Semyon Bychkov; O de Paris (2/1995) 32:29


Bernard Haitink; Berlin P (2/1995) 32:48


Valery Gergiev; Mariinsky Theatre O (7/1999) 34:35


Esa-Pekka Salonen; Los Angeles P (1/2006) 32:59


Myung-Whun Chung; Radio France PO (3/2007) 32:40


Gustavo Dudamel; Simón Bolívar Youth O (2/2010) 34:59


Bracha Eden (pn); Alexander Tamir (pn) (8/1968) 34: 05


Güher Pekinel (pn); Süher Pekinel (pn) (10/1983) 33:22


Vladimir Ashkenazy (pn); Andrei Gavrilov (pn) (1/1990) 33:34


May 29, 1913, has become the most famous date in the history of music. A Paris audience at the brand new Théâtre des Champs Élysées broke into a furious riot at the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps . Impresario Serge Diaghilev had encouraged the riot by inviting students to the performance, knowing that their views would conflict with those of the aging, conservative ballet audience, which had come to wallow in the other dances on the program: Les Syphides, Le Spectre de la rose , and Polovtsian Dances . People in the audience hissed, whistled, screamed and fought, to the extent that the dancers could not hear the orchestra, and the police were summoned. Disgusted, Stravinsky walked out and went backstage. History suggests that it was not Stravinsky’s music but Vaslav Nijinsky’s even more radical choreography—so radical that it required 120 hours of rehearsal—which caused all the trouble. Music and its audiences were already accustomed to adventurous changes, from Tristan und Isolde to Pelléas et Mélisande —if not to Schoenberg’s break with tonality, which was already under way. Well into the 20th century, ballet was still mired in the 19th. A corps de ballet in white or pink tutus remained the norm, with only an occasional blip such as Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune , which shocked more for its explicit sexuality than for its modernity. Even Mikhail Fokine’s Petrushka contained its share of spinning ballerinas. No matter how much they worshipped Nijinsky as a dancer, ballet audiences were totally unprepared for his choreography of Le Sacre —which, by the way, is a perfect fit with Stravinsky’s music. The ballet received only eight performances; as there was no written or visual way to preserve choreography at the time, it totally disappeared, to be excavated and resurrected from a few sketches and memories 70 years later.


Music, on the other hand, was securely represented by its score. Stravinsky’s two-piano reduction of Le Sacre was published within days of the premiere. Debussy had played it with Stravinsky in 1912; host Louis Laloy wrote: “We were stunned into silence by this hurricane that had come from the depths of the ages, and that tore up our life by its roots.” (The quotations in this paragraph come from this set’s marvelous program notes by Nigel Simeone.) The Rite immediately became a highly successful orchestral showpiece rather than a ballet; within a year it was hailed by audiences and critics in Moscow, St. Petersburg, London, and—yes—Paris, where Stravinsky was “hoisted onto anonymous shoulders and carried into the streets.” Composers then and now have recognized it as the ultimate in music: Debussy, Ravel, Miaskovsky, Poulenc, Milhaud, Messiaen, Britten, Boulez, Copland, Bernstein, Reich—and on and on. Prokofiev sight read the whole thing at the piano with Stravinsky (who “boiled, became bloodshot, sweated, sang hoarsely”), at full speed, at full force—and was praised by the composer for his playing.


One hundred years later it is impossible to imagine the excitement of those early days. Le Sacre is now a cornerstone of the repertory, our time’s “Eroica” (an equally revolutionary work that took far longer to achieve its just recognition). This Decca set is titled “Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps . 100th Anniversary Collectors Edition.” It contains every recording of The Rite issued by the labels which coalesced into Universal: Decca/London, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips, plus their contracted subsidiaries and associates such as Mercury. There are 35 recordings of the orchestral score and three of the two-piano version; the headnote lists month and year of each (live or studio derived, most took more than a single day) and its total timing. Timings are surprisingly consistent, with a slight slowing—about 90 seconds on average—over the 66 years. The Boosey & Hawkes score of the 1947 revision says “Duration 33 minutes.” Antal Doráti preferred quick tempos in his youth, and his 1959 performance is the shortest of these 38 recordings (29:56); Leonard Bernstein slowed everything as he aged, and his 1982 recording is the longest (36: 57)—by almost two minutes. Of conductors who made more than one recording, Colin Davis varied the most, from a speedy 30:29 in 1963 to a relaxed 34:47 in 1973. Of course tempos are dependent on venues: The reverberant Grote Zaal of the Concertgebouw demands more time for everything to be heard than does the drier acoustic of London’s Walthamstow Assembly Hall; Georg Solti needed over a minute more in the Concertgebouw than in Chicago’s Medinah Temple.


The long history of Le Sacre recordings is too vast for me to guarantee everything I say here, even though I do not plan to list all the recordings I can find—this is not a Sacresaurus (with a tip of the hat to Richard A. Kaplan’s Sibeliusaurus ). I will be pleased to learn anything more that courteous readers may contribute, and will publish whatever I think worthy. There had been six recordings before van Beinum, two each by Stravinsky, Monteux, and Stokowski (including his abridged performance in the film Fantasia ). Stravinsky’s 1940 New York Philharmonic recording has been criticized for its imprecision (Simeone denies that the playing is “really satisfactory”), but it is a powerful reading and establishes the composer’s wishes, as his unreliable 1929 Paris recording could not. It is worth noting that the composer’s 1960 stereo remake with the (East Coast) Columbia Symphony Orchestra takes but two seconds longer than in 1940. Monteux recorded the score in Paris in 1929, in San Francisco in 1945, in Boston in 1951, and finally in Paris again in 1956, the recording in this set.


It’s not clear that comparative criticisms of the 35 orchestral performances are useful, as a prospective buyer has no chance to choose one or two of them over the others. So I will listen to every note but comment only on facets that stand out in my mind. Van Beinum’s 1946 recording with the Concertgebouw is very well played, the best to date (Monteux had taught the orchestra the score in 1924). It is also typical van Beinum: sensitive, accurate, honest, but lacking the febrile excitement the piece requires—until the penultimate section, “Action rituelle des ancêtres,” where he turns up the heat. Decca’s monaural “ffrr” sound is lovely but far too reverberant. Decca’s restoration is sweeter but not as clean as that in Music & Arts’ “The Artistry of Eduard van Beinum”; both have considerable distortion—which wasn’t on my 78s—suggesting that their sources had been damaged. Ansermet’s 1950 reading is a low-voltage, too-careful-yet-still-sloppy performance; the monaural recording is wondrously colorful, but there are a few small spots of deterioration. After all his other brilliant London/Decca Stravinsky LPs, I remember being disappointed by this one in 1951. His 1959 stereo remake is a huge improvement, one of the richest performances and recordings of all time. The mono LP was issued first, a bare breast exposed on its cover; a month or two later the stereo LP appeared with an extra flap of material. I’ve kept both—for the hypocrisy, not the thrill (I’m a big boy now).


Doráti’s 1953 performance is hectic, its mono recording dry and pinched, and this transfer is intermittently distorted. At the time, the public was impressed by how fast the orchestra could play, and the recording was admired; but it captures none of the beauty of the work, merely its excitement. Six years later, the stereo remake, although more than a minute shorter, never sounds hectic and finds more of the score’s beauties, with the help of vastly superior recorded sound. Doráti’s 1981 recording, in Detroit instead of Minneapolis, is far slower; the fire has gone out, and the orchestral execution is mediocre.


Ferenc Fricsay’s recording had escaped me. The opening solo is unusually soulful, and the playing is marvelously crisp and forceful; Fricsay has Berlin’s “Radio in the American Sector Symphony Orchestra” playing better than the Philharmonic (which once had to borrow the radio orchestra’s first trumpet because its own man could not manage the solo in Petrushka ). The DG recording is potent and clear, the restoration clean. This tautly sprung, explosive Le Sacre was its finest recording to date, its only flaw being a too-casual, not-mysterious-enough “Cercles mystérieux des adolescents.” What a great conductor Fricsay was!


Rudolf Albert (1918-1992) was a German conductor who specialized in contemporary music; he also recorded Petrushka , the Symphony in Three Movements, and a suite from The Firebird . His Rite , recorded by Classics Jazz France for a Club Français du Disque LP, has appeared on European CDs on the Classica and Universal labels. Albert demonstrates superb dramatic feeling for the work. Despite some lax tuning in the brass, his Parisian orchestra plays well enough, but it is let down by a recording short on bass that can blast at the climaxes. Nevertheless, this is one of the most impressive Le Sacre s of the mono era, inferior only to the Fricsay. Monteux’s Paris Conservatory Orchestra is solid and capable by comparison and is cleanly recorded and transferred, but the reading is conservative and straightforward, without any special character or flavor. It is very good but not as revelatory as we might wish from the conductor who started it all in 1913. Monteux never liked the piece and was resentful that he was asked to play and record it so often.


It is surprising how few Le Sacre s appeared on Decca/London, DG, Philips, or Mercury in the early years of stereo: prior to 1963, only the excellent Ansermet and Doráti performances, both remakes of unsatisfactory mono recordings. Karajan civilizes The Rite . Stravinsky called the recording “too polished, a pet savage rather than a real one.” Possibly to avoid antagonizing Europe’s Generalmusikdirector , the composer added an atypically gracious afterthought: “I do not mean to imply that he is out of his depths, however, but that he is in my shallows . . . There are simply no regions for soul-searching in The Rite of Spring .” Karajan’s 1977 remake is more colorful and very potent but even less primeval; the Introduction to part II is almost unrecognizable. The whole takes only 40 seconds longer than in 1963, but it seems to crawl. Listeners who are into the Karajan mystique may find it magnificent.


Colin Davis’s 1963 Le Sacre is measured and steady, almost belying its brief timing (another example of how deceptive timings can be). It is exceptionally well played by the London Symphony but is too buttoned down, lacking the ferocity demanded by the score. The Philips recording is typically clean and conservative. Davis’s 1976 remake with the Concertgebouw is a feast of gorgeous instrumental felicity, with overwhelming climaxes, enhanced by silky recorded sound in a shining, reverberant acoustic. Although Davis takes over four minutes longer than in London, this impassioned performance seldom seems slow. Taken on its own merits, it is spectacular, but it is too lush, too beautiful to relate to Stravinsky’s scenes of pagan Russia.


Zubin Mehta in Los Angeles approaches the score with a youthful fervor, and his orchestra plays well, but atmosphere and character are inconsistent, as if the recording was a patchwork of takes rather than a whole. One also begins to suspect some solo highlighting, with producer Ray Minshull’s busy fingers on the controls. All in all, not quite first-rate. An even younger (27 to 33) Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Boston Symphony in an elegant, precise performance. His slow tempos work, bringing out a ceremonial feeling that fits the ballet; tension never lessens, even in the quieter moments. This is an outstanding Le Sacre , which Deutsche Grammophon’s engineers captured well. The booklet is mistaken about the date of the recording: It was not November 1972 but January 24 and 25 of that year. I feel silly citing my own book ( Boston Symphony Orchestra: An Augmented Discography ), but I took this datum from the payment sheet held in the BSO Archives, than which there is no more reliable source; Barbara Perkel, assistant archivist, has just rechecked, noting that “the BSO didn’t record at all in November of 1972.”


Haitink’s 1973 London Philharmonic performance is conservative and a bit tame. The recorded sound lacks impact; Philips’s engineers may have added too much reverberance to Walthamstow Assembly Hall’s basic acoustic. It’s time to note that (as is the case with most other performances here) this is a fine, satisfying Rite ; criticisms are made only in comparison to the best—or even an ideal—recording. A lesser standard might be: What if this was the only recording one knew? Given appropriate recorded sound for the era in question, a majority of these performances would be most satisfactory. Haitink’s 1995 remake in Berlin is a bit faster but even tamer. As with Karajan, a few moments are almost unrecognizable. This was not the piece for either Haitink or the Berlin Philharmonic—climaxes can sound ugly, and there is even a horn bobble (at 1:19 of track 4). Although I’ve complained elsewhere about too much beauty, there is no paradox: The score is filled with beauties, but the piece must not become a thing of beauty in itself.


The London Philharmonic recorded Le Sacre again in 1973, this time for Decca at Kingsway Hall, under Erich Leinsdorf. The basic sound is gorgeous, but it is manipulated and highlighted—an occasional solo jumps forth like in a 3D movie, the stereo spread is exaggerated, and the pp moments are too loud. This matches the original U.S. issue, in London’s Phase 4 Stereo series, which souped up recordings artificially. There are some tiny skips in the “Danse sacrale,” although my CD player’s clock runs smoothly. Hidden by all this is a fine, straightforward performance. Lorin Maazel’s Le Sacre from the Sofiensaal is just what one might expect from the Vienna Philharmonic: smooth and creamy, waking up for a cataclysmic moment here and there, and then returning to dreamland. Those guys could play anything they wanted, but they had to want it—Monteux damned them for their refusal to play this work properly. A truly weird performance, more suitable for The Firebird than for The Rite.


Solti and his Chicago Symphony return us to sanity in a superbly played performance. The opening bassoon solo is a bit too fast for my taste (the score calls for Lento tempo rubato , but the solo is ad lib ), and Solti’s brusque manner surfaces here and there. The recorded sound is good but the acoustic a bit dry and unlovely, which keeps this from being one of the great Le Sacre s. As these recordings proceed through the decades, we are hearing the history of recording techniques (and fads, such as Phase 4) as well as that of Le Sacre . By 1974 spotlighting had become common and was employed with subtlety; this recording might have benefited from some. Solti’s 1991 remake at the Concertgebouw points up some differences: That bassoon is now warm and intimate. The orchestral execution is equally fine and the acoustic wondrous (the presence of an audience at this live performance helps keep the hall’s long resonance under control), but again a few instruments could use some help from the microphones (was the conductor against spotlighting? I don’t know). Yet the famous Solti passion is missing; the now Royal Concertgebouw plays too casually, not quite on automatic pilot—Solti does rouse the troops for some of the big moments.


Claudio Abbado’s London Symphony plays exquisitely, and Deutsche Grammophon’s crisp, clean recorded sound (Fairfield Halls, Croydon) reveals every detail of the score. Tempos are fast ( pace the 33: 17 timing), but every rhythm is right on, every point is made, and the dramatic tension builds consistently in both part I and part II. Beautiful, ferocious, primeval, Abbado’s is one of the great recorded Rite s—not only in this set, but of all time.


In 1940, even the august New York Philharmonic had difficulty playing The Rite of Spring ; by 1977, orchestras throughout the world could manage it, aided by the infusion of a new generation of musicians with the score in their blood, almost in their genes. Proof resides in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, an ensemble of youngsters led by 22-year-old Simon Rattle, a former member. Their ASV recording displays an exciting, highly competent performance; only a few unsteady horns keep it from competing with the pros. DG went back to Symphony Hall, Boston, in 1979, this time with Seiji Ozawa. As always, the BSO is elegant and refined, with lovely woodwind solos, but there isn’t much personality on display, and the recorded sound is too smooth.


Leonard Bernstein’s 1982 recording in Frederic R. Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, is probably a composite of multiple live performances, which was his preference late in life. Although Stravinsky said “Wow!” in response to Bernstein’s 1958 New York Philharmonic Le Sacre , I have found all three of his recordings to be surprisingly thoughtful, with no hint of the wild man he was supposed to be on the podium. This performance is very powerful; well calculated slow tempos seldom drag (the Introduction to part II is very slow; 5:28 compared to a mean of 4:09 elsewhere), and there are some fine details, but the whole comes across as grandiose. Bernstein once commented that the music was enough, that one didn’t need to know the ballet. I think he was wrong, and it shows. Charles Dutoit is almost equally slow, in a somnolent, sloppy performance. The famous unevenly accented chords at the start of “Danses des adolescents” are almost delicate here, and Decca’s bright sound has little oomph. Riccardo Chailly is inconsistent, in phrasing and in tempos; despite some mighty climaxes, the performance comes across as too soft.


In recent decades, one detects dual paths to performing Le Sacre : on the one hand playing it as a pure orchestral showpiece, on the other emphasizing the drama of its pagan rituals. As Abbado demonstrated, the two sides are by no means incompatible, and the extent to which a given performance falls into one or the other category may be partially a subjective judgment. Bernstein claimed to have no interest in the ballet, and yet his recordings seem to fall on the dramatic side of the line. The dichotomy was first suggested by Pierre Boulez’s 1969 Columbia recording with the Cleveland Orchestra, which was hailed by many for the brilliance of George Szell’s orchestra but scorned by others for its Szell-like heart. An earlier Boulez recording with Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française was more dramatic, but the playing far less exact, and my Nonesuch LP doesn’t capture it well. The technical superiority of the Cleveland forces is immediately apparent, but a dull, airless Columbia stereo recording does not allow the instruments to shine. The 1991 Boulez/Cleveland remake for DG (in Masonic Auditorium instead of Severance Hall) is an even more exacting performance in far better sound. Modern recordings which go for orchestral virtuosity include Esa-Pekka Salonen/LA Philharmonic and Mariss Jansons/Concertgebouw; the dramatic side is well represented by Robert Craft/LSO (Naxos) and Iván Fischer/Budapest Festival Orchestra (Channel Classics). I said in Fanfare 35: 6 that Salonen and Jansons are “machine-like performances,” whereas with Fischer, Craft, and the early Boulez, the “performance is telling a story.”


James Levine and his sumptuous Metropolitan Opera Orchestra get everything just right. Rhythms, tempos, phrasings are impeccable; the line builds irresistibly. Many little details that make so much difference in Le Sacre are perfect: the grunts and heaving sighs of cellos and basses in “Rondes printanières”; the nasal snarl of three muted trumpets in “Action rituelle des ancêtres”; a thoroughly satisfying final chord, so seldom achieved. Only an odd quirk prevents this recording from being among the best: The bass clarinets are too distant, both solo and in ensemble. After which, Vladimir Ahkenazy’s performance seems a routine run-through, slow, sloppy, and ill-tuned, with little character or life. Ironically, after 34.5 minutes of mess, it too hits the final chord on the nose. Semyon Bychkov’s Orchestre de Paris gives a quality, often exciting performance; the pp E?-clarinet runs in the Introduction to part II are delicious. But Philips’s recording from Salle Pleyel is thin and harsh, denying the music its full glory.


Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra are absolutely magnificent. This is a dramatic performance if ever there was one, although it is as well played as the best of the virtuoso-oriented ones. We are swept into the ancient scene, captivated by the pagan rites. One can see the ballet unfold simply through the music. The line never falters, nor does the tension, even as wondrous woodwind solos cascade around us. Gergiev has always been known as a tough conductor to play for, except by his home team, which understands every eye movement, every twitch of his fluttering fingers. After attempting to parse and describe 30 performances of Le Sacre in terms of such pedestrian qualities as tempo and attack, I am here reduced to claiming sheer magic—which is what great music-making should be. After sitting stunned through these 35 minutes, I returned to sample particular moments, and then dove in more or less at random; the magic is present wherever one lands in the score. This time Philips engineers have delivered thrilling, warm, enveloping sound that never clouds details from the Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden. There can be no such thing as an unequivocal best recording of The Rite , but—after 63 years of listening to it—this one instantly succeeds all my previous favorites. Note that this is a much superior performance to Gergiev’s 2008 DVD of the ballet—which is also sloppily danced, ruining Nijinsky’s choreography; for an ideally danced performance, see The Joffrey Ballet’s 1989 Le Sacre on YouTube.


Esa-Pekka Salonen, on the other hand, operates in the Boulez mode: clean and clear, but cool. To me, the Angelenos are playing the notes but not the music. There are also a few strange moments late in both parts I and II: Those three muted trumpets have a jaunty cadence, which strikes me as all wrong. Myung-Whun Chung’s Orchestre philharmonique du France has exactly the right sound for Le Sacre , as Paris orchestras so often do. Individual woodwinds seem to be battling for face time in both Introductions, and there is some rhythmic insecurity toward the end of the “Danse sacrale,” but the entire performance has a frisson lacking in Los Angeles. Another Jazz Classics France recording displays vivid, sparkling sound.


Gustavo Dudamel has been the most recent boy wonder of the podium, but, at 29 when this recording was made, he was only the third youngest conductor here (after Rattle and Tilson Thomas). His Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela was also aging; a year later it would lose the “Youth” part of its title, as the average age of the payers reached 24. Listening to this latest recording in the set (2010), one notes that the opening bassoon line (and its horn and clarinet accompaniment) have morphed over the decades from a difficult solo in a previously unexploited range to an expression of pure beauty, crafted by artists of the instrument, not mere technicians. The performance is lovely, on the highest professional level, but some of the solos are not executed with as much spirit and panache as in the great recordings; those three muted trumpets—marked solo in the score—are almost lost.


What a shock it is to hear that opening solo played on a piano! It is every bit as wrong as the keyboard imitations of the mighty orchestral climaxes. The two-piano score has been eminently useful—those Debussy and Prokofiev performances, the first publication—and is a superb challenge to pianists; it is just not Le Sacre . Eden and Tamir, in 1968, cannot create even a shadowy image of the ballet; they sound just plain silly. I confess I couldn’t bear it and failed to listen all the way through, as I had with all 35 orchestral versions. The Pekinel sisters, in 1983, are beautifully matched and have a fine feeling for the piece. Ashkenazy and Gavrilov are less subtle but conquer by sheer main force. None of them even approximate Le Sacre du printemps.


The final disc of this set is devoted solely to the 21 minutes of the Violin Concerto’s first recording. There is no mention of the concerto in the programs notes, which suggests that it was a late addition to the set. (Hey, it’s 19 CDs: Why not make it an even 20?) It has been issued on historical labels such as Biddulph and Andante, and it is currently available on a DG disc. Samuel Dushkin collaborated on writing the concerto and became Stravinsky’s duet partner in concert. As valuable as it is to have the composer’s performance available, Dushkin was not a very good violinist, Stravinsky was not yet a decent conductor, and the 1935 monaural sound is dreadful. Decca’s transfer is brighter and cleaner than Andante’s, which seems to have been softened for the conservative ear and has a glazed-over quality.


Decca’s booklet is exceptionally well planned and laid out: For each disc, the recto has a column for each of two recordings, with tracks and their timings for the score’s 14 sections; below is discographic data: performers, version of the score (1913, 1921, or 1947), recording site, dates, producers and engineers, and original recording company. On the verso are photos of the conductors, each taken at about the time of the recording, so one can see as well as hear Ansermet, Doráti, Karajan, Davis, Haitink, and Solti age. Two superb essays follow, both by Nigel Simeone: “A Century of The Rite of Spring” (six dense pages), and “ The Rite of Spring Recorded” (five). Each essay is then repeated in French and in German.


When this 20-CD set arrived, I feared being swamped by so many performances—that they all would begin to sound alike. To the contrary: Differences and distinctive characteristics stood out more clearly from day to day (it took about three weeks). Some old preferences were reinforced (Ansermet II), as were some disappointments (Ansermet I, Mehta); some opinions were upgraded (Davis II, Tilson Thomas), a few biases were overcome (Doráti II); some new old friends were made (Fricsay, Albert), and new favorites emerged (Gergiev, Abbado). Whatever your views of Le Sacre du printemps , this set offers almost unlimited variety; after listening to it, you will appreciate this ultimate masterpiece even more than you did before. I certainly do. Although I have appreciated and enjoyed this music for a lifetime, I now love it above all else—yes, even the “Eroica.” It is the music of the centuries.


Have a riotous good time on May 29, and don’t forget to lift a glass to Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Monteux, and Diaghilev—with a nod of thanks to Decca as well.


FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

1. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
2. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 11/1985 
Venue:  Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 32 Minutes 46 Secs. 
3. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 03/1991 
Venue:  Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland 
Length: 33 Minutes 29 Secs. 
4. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  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. 
5. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Esa-Pekka Salonen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 01/2006 
Venue:  Live  Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, C 
Length: 33 Minutes 0 Secs. 
6. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1956 
7. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
8. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Rudolf Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 04/09/1956 
Venue:  Club Français du Disque, Paris, Salle Wa 
Length: 30 Minutes 57 Secs. 
9. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
10. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Eduard Van Beinum
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 09/11/1946 
11. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1959 
Venue:  Northrop Memorial Auditorium, Minneapoli 
Length: 29 Minutes 56 Secs. 
12. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 11/1976 
Venue:  Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 34 Minutes 54 Secs. 
13. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Gustavo Dudamel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
14. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
15. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
16. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 05/1992 
Venue:  Manhattan Center, New York City 
Length: 33 Minutes 38 Secs. 
17. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 09/1991 
Venue:  Grotezaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 34 Minutes 19 Secs. 
18. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 05/14/1974 
Venue:  Medinah Temple, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 32 Minutes 3 Secs. 
19. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Lorin Maazel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1974 
Venue:  Live    
20. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Myung-Whun Chung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 2007 
21. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Semyon Bychkov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1995 
22. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Venue:    
23. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 04/1982 
Venue:  Live  Frederic Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv 
Length: 37 Minutes 12 Secs. 
24. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
25. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1979 
26. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1963 
27. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1977 
28. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 1975 
29. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Andrei Gavrilov (Piano), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Brangwyn Hall, Swansea 
Length: 33 Minutes 11 Secs. 
30. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Güher Pekinel (Piano), Süher Pekinel (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
31. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Alexander Tamir (Piano), Bracha Eden (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
32. Concerto for Violin in D major by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Samuel Dushkin (Violin)
Conductor:  Igor Stravinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lamoureux Concerts Association Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; France 
Date of Recording: 1935 
Venue:  Paris, France 
Length: 20 Minutes 19 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Le Sacre du Printemps - Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 2. Les augures printaniers - Danses des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 3. Jeu du rapt
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 4. Rondes printanières
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 5. Jeux des cités
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 6. Cortège du sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 7. Le sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 8. Danse de la terre
Le Sacre du Printemps - Part 2: The Sacrifice: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 2. Cercles mysteriéux des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 3. Glorification d'élue
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 4. Évocation des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 5. Action rituelle des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 6. Danse sacrale: l'élue
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 2. Les augures printaniers - Danses des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 3. Jeu du rapt
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 4. Rondes printanières
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 5. Jeux des cités
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 6. Cortège du sage - Le sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 7. Le sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 8. Danse de la terre
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 2. Cercles mysteriéux des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 3. Glorification d'élue
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 4. Évocation des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 5. Action rituelle des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 6. Danse sacrale: l'élue
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: The Augurs Of Spring: Dances Of The Young Girls
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised version for Orchestra (published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth: Ritual Of Abduction
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Spring Rounds
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Ritual Of The Rival Tribes
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Procession Of The Sage
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Adoration Of The Earth
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Dance Of The Earth
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 1: The Adoration Of The Earth: Introduction (Largo)
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 2: The Sacrifice: Mystical Circles Of The Young Girls
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 2: The Sacrifice: Glorification Of The Chosen Victim
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 2: The Sacrifice: Summoning Of The Elders
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 2: The Sacrifice: Ritual Of The Elders
Le Sacre du Printemps - Revised Version For Orchestra (Published 1947) / Part 2: The Sacrifice: Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One)
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 2. Les augures printaniers - Danses des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 3. Jeu du rapt
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 4. Rondes printanières
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 5. Jeux des cités
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 6. Cortège du sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 7a. Le sage
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 1: L'Adoration de la Terre: 7b. Dance of the Earth
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 1. Introduction
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 2. Cercles mysteriéux des adolescentes
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 3. Glorification d'élue
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 4. Évocation des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 5. Action rituelle des ancêtres
Le Sacre du Printemps / Part 2: Le Sacrifice: 6. Danse sacrale: l'élue

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