Having seen Rattle perform the 'Rite' with the Berliner at the Proms, I was looking forward to a recording of this piece from these musicians and it doesn't disappoint. The recording quality is truly remarkable and I heard many small details that had not been evident in previous versions.
The problem with the piece, as Rattle himself has mentioned in interviews - is that the end of part 1 is a huge climax that feels like the conclusion to the work. So what often happens, is that part 2 is unable to build any further and it fails to come to a satisfying conclusion.
Rattle seems to have solved this problem and his method is to make the last part more brutal than any recording I have heard before. The bass drum sounds huge and the force of impact is really felt and heard with this recording. So when we get to the final dance, where the time signature is changing every bar - the percussion really kick up a storm and dominate the overall sound picture.
Given that Rattle started as a percussion player - it makes sense that this piece is so important to him and that he should find the solution in terms of making this section more prominent and more brutal in its impact. It also makes sense for this piece, as it is a barbaric rite of human sacrifice - not an intellectual exercise in musical theory. I found this to be my favourite version so far along with Stravinsky's own recording.
The other pieces add value to the CD and the Symphonies of Wind Instruments demonstrates some wonderful sonorities, as you would expect from these players - great energy and blending of all the instruments - at times sounding like one large instrument. I am not so keen on Apollon Musagete, but this CD is worth buying for the Rite alone - which is 5 stars and a top recommendation all the way.