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2.0 out of 5 stars Limp, awful rite, competent Nielsen, 25 Aug 2010
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J. S. Bower "Jon Bower" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nielsen - Symphony No 5; Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring (Audio CD)
I do not find it within me to be kind to these quite dismal performances. Jarvi is a very understated conductor, to put it mildly. This Rite is actually boring - quite possibly the worst I have ever heard on vinyl, CD or SACD over the past 50 years. With about 20 or so recordings of this piece in my collection, that's quite an achivement. Although the playing is safe and competent throughout, this reading is utterly without menace, violence, thrill or excitement. It makes Karajan's limp and justifiably harangued performance of the vinyl age (his first one) sound like a riot of excitement by comparison...

Stravinsky's comments on that particular effort... "tempi di hoochie-coochie" and "duller than Disney's dying dinosaurs" seem tailor-made for Jarvi's dull-as-ditchwater version 40 years on. Ouch, now THAT's what I call 'telling it like it is. Nice one, Igor.

This one wouldn't cause a riot in a dustbin, which is where this disc was filed after one audition.

Rites on SACD are tricky. Janson's with the Concertgebouw shares the overall limpness and safe quality of the Jarvi, although it's better played by the RCO. Stravinsky's own version on CBS/Sony in wonderful, but poorly recorded. Great performance but poor sound also amply describes the fine Cleveland/Boulez version on CBS/Sony.

Actually, I find the RPO/Simonov version on Membran the only extant version on SACD graced by both a good performance as well as good (although blatantly multi-miked) sound. I have high hopes for the forthcoming Litton/Bergen version on BIS. I can guarantee that Litton will not underplay this piece.

The Nielsen 5 on this disc is a better reading, by far, than the Stravinsky. It's actually competent. But compare with Horenstein, Schmidt or Blomstedt shows what's missing here. It sounds too generic, and utterly lacks the required icy Nordic passion. So, zero stars for the Rite performance and 3 for the Nielsen- giving 1.5 stars overall.

The sound? I am not a great fan of Telarc sound, it's well known (excepting some of their fine earlier Soundstream recordings). However, they give the Rite generally accurate sound with truly staggering dynamic range and fine-sounding low percussion. In common with many of their later recordings, however, it's very distant and softened in the process i.e it's not transparent enough for fully illuminated back-stage.

The Nielsen has noticeably better sound quality - somewhat closer in perspective and tonally far more even and transparent. So the sound gets 5 stars for the Nielsen and 4.5 for the Rite. But this can't compensate for the wholly deficient performances. of course.

I would, perhaps, be kinder to Jarvi if he hadn't done this before. I regard him as a serial killer of fine 20th century music. I present as evidence his Bartok Concerto for Orchestra (albeit shared with a far better Lutoslawski) on Telarc, plus his Britten Young Persons' Guide. All of these all-time lows in performance. I rest my case, m'lud.
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Nielsen - Symphony No 5; Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
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