The Rite of Spring famously caused a riot at its 1913 premiere. Not too many pieces can claim that sort of immediate impact on the public, but the heart of it is not in anarchy–it is in youth, energy and change. These aspects of Stravinsky's landmark in 20th century composition are key to its successful performance and, in theory, there is no better kind of orchestra to tackle its spring-like explosions than one made up of blossoming youths. Furthermore, there's no better youth orchestra suited to it than the Simón Bolívar Youth Orcherstra of Venezuela. Over the the years, the product of a rigourous national cultural effort has become something cherished by the rest of the world too, the legacy of 'El Sistema' firmly etched into music's history books.
True, under the infectious leadership of Gustavo Dudamel (no longer quite such a dead ringer for Carlos Valderrama), the verve of these performers is quite incredible. But can they convincingly handle The Rite, with its batty accelarations and daringly skewed rhythmic idiosyncracies? Happily, the answer is resoundingly positive throughout. Alongside the gusto and through the joie de vivre of this orchestra, they are truly microscopic in their detail.
Early on, the Danses des adolescentes seems almost too obvious an example of the youthful exuberance you'd expect, but it truly does reverberate something inescapably childish in its brashness. Youthful players will always be disposed to the more bombastic sections of brass and percussion (the novelty of making a ruddy big noise is yet to wear off), but it is wonderful to hear that as much attention has been paid to the nimble sections. The trumpets' flutter-tonguing during Action rituelle des ancetres is especially worm-like, almost invasive, and so confident. The SBYOV are, if nothing else, eternally fixated on making the tiniest gesture as effective as it can be.
Now that the orchestra and their flamboyant artistic director have recorded some truly seminal works in their latest and most noteworthy incarnation (try their Mahler 5 if you have a spare afternoon), and they can now add The Rite of Spring to them. They've tacked on a super rendition of Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas' quixotic La Noche De Los Mayas too, but all talk will be of how the Simón Bolívar Youth Orcherstra of Venezuela conquered Stravinsky's Rite. What next? --Daniel Ross
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DGG 4778775; DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON - Germania; Classica Orchestrale