I am in sympathy with almost everything the previous reviewer says, both on the positive and negative side. Rattle's young Birmingham musicians can't compete internationally for technique, but he worked wonders with what he had. The coupling of one of Stravinsky's less-played ballets with his most famous one is canny. When Rattle first appeared on the scene, a decade after Stravinsky's death, England was still a wasteland for the composer's works beyond the top four or five most popular scores. (Can you think of Sargent, Boult, or Barbirolli doing any Stravinsky?)
Rattle's way with Apollo is sauve and overly fussy in its details, unable to find a driving reason for the music to reach our ears. The score is among the most pure and pristine of Stravinsky's major neo-classical works, so it's a challenge to make it work without Balanchine's choreography. Even so, Rattle's reading is too pastel.
I wondered what strategy he would adopt for Le sacre, which has become a showpiece for virtuosic display. Leading a second-tier orchestra, Rattle can't compete with the blockbuster versions that litter the landscape, and stylistically he's crowded out by Bernstein, Boulez, and Monteux -- between them, they color Le sacre about as many ways as one might imagine, while sitll leaving room for Gergiev and Salonen. In the end, Rattle settles for careful detail (one of his trademarks), sharp contours here and there, and an overall smoothness that is at odds with the screaming romp of Muti, for example. Like Colin Davis and Haitink, he wants the music to sound cogent. Such an approach is at odds with the composer himself, whose Le sacre on Sony is biting, fierce, and harrowing. But Rattle leans on the dissonances when he can, and his rhythms are propulsive without being hectic.
It would be unfair to call this a veddy British version of Stravinsky. Rattle's style is articulate, clean, and vital yet not highly memorable.