on 23 December 2013
i'm at a loss to explain why no one else has reviewed this seminal piece by stravinsky.(maybe because it's on a lesser label)
the best interpretation of this piece hands down is the one by stravinsky himself with the columbia phil released by sony. i have heard other interpretations, yet none of them come close to stravinsky's own...until i heard this.
there are 2 versions of 'rite of spring' by markevich. one recorded in 1951 and in mono, the other in 1958 and in excellent stereo. his mono recording was a top tier recording of the time and he recorded the stereo (thankfully for us) quite by accident. the story goes that EMI had booked the studio space for klemperer but he fell ill. rather then cancel the booking they asked markevich to re-record his 'rite' in stereo. it was a last minute thing to get all the original players back together but you can definitely feel the full force of the orchestra here. i'm not well versed in describing it in detail except this forgotten record stands alongside all the seminal recordings. luckily for us, both recordings are on this disc.
on 29 March 2013
(Set just received, so rating subject to revision after a complete audition.)
I'll return to this set later, but in the meantime here are a few points, not least a list of what exactly the box contains, which, at the time of writing, Amazon have yet to do.
Unlike the Decca set released last year, Sony have chosen to issue selected performances, rather than every version of Le Sacre in the combined CBS and RCA archives:
Philadelphia Orchestra/ Stokowski (1929)
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/ Stravinsky (1940)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Monteux (1951)
Philadelphia Orchestra/ Ormandy (1955)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/ Stravinsky (1960)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/ Ozawa (1968) (+ Feu d'Artifice)
Cleveland Orchestra/ Boulez (1969)
London Symphony Orchestra/ Bernstein (1972)
Philharmonia Orchestra/ Salonen (1989) (+ Symphony in 3 Movements)
San Francisco Symphony/ Tilson Thomas (1996)
Each version is alone on a CD, except for the two with couplings mentioned above, presented in a cardboard jacket replica of the original LP sleeve and all housed in a square box.
So, most importantly, two recordings by the composer (although the exact extent of his participation in the 1960 version has sometimes been questioned: certainly its almost elegant, lightly sprung transparency is miles away from the altogether heavier and more primitive 1940 traversal). Six of the remaining eight performances are under conductors also represented on the Decca set, though by alternative readings - the live Tilson Thomas is particularly impressive - and since there are fewer versions in this set, it's more likely that an avid Stravinsky collector will already possess those they consider important.
In any case, my immediate reaction is that Sony have missed a trick or two here: the booklet contains Stravinsky's revelatory essay on Le Sacre, but there's enough space on any of the discs to have included his fabulously accented reading of it which accompanied the original release. Bernstein's fiery 1958 account of the score, accorded a critical "Wow!" by the composer himself, is the most surprising omission: the Ozawa and Salonen recordings keep the couplings advertised on their jackets, whilst Ormandy's does not.
There's no arguing with the price, but for me at least, with the obvious exception of the composer's recordings, the overall package offers fewer celebrated versions than the Decca, and is presented with less style and thoroughness, giving this tribute the impression of being rather more a commercial duty than a labour of love. Completists will want it, but what about the more general buyer?
The two Stravinsky versions are widely available elsewhere, and if you have neither, then Sony have also just released a two-disc set of both, each coupled with a roughly contemporaneous recording of the Firebird suite. I have a feeling that this would probably be enough for the general listener who would like to explore the work a little further (not to mention a useful adjunct for those who feel they've just about gone far enough with the Decca, but need the composer's versions as well).
Addendum: The 1958 Bernstein, mentioned above, is very hard to find, with the last CD reissue long out of print. Its inclusion here would really have tipped the balance in favour of this larger set rather than the two disc version. However, it appears that a reissue is due soon: according to the French Amazon site, Urania Widescreen are releasing it in late April as part of a two-disc "Bernstein conducts Russian Composers" set. This leaves the San Francisco/Tilson Thomas as the deal-breaker, and it's a real cracker of a performance, superlatively engineered: it's already joined my shortlist of favourites, and justifies my personal choice of the bigger compilation.
on 21 November 2008
Knowing many parts were added later by superimposing, this 4 hand piano transcription of The Rite of Spring still never ceases to amaze me by its complexity, variety of tonal colours, inventive John Cage-like effects (thumping on strings damped by hand, pianist shouting and breathing hard), dazzling virtuosity and exquisite tonal control. Fazil Say must have studied orchestra score through and through. The sheer power and his enormous passion for the music make this performance more thrilling and facinating than the original orchestra version. As the music progresses, tension level rises to unbearable degree and the force of archaic brutality becomes overwhelming and almost frightening!
on 6 July 2014
Sorry, but I clicked on this link from the CD version of Markevitch's 2 recordings but the cover here says Stravinksy is the conductor, and as there are only 14 tracks of mp3, it can't be the 2 Markevitch recordings! Someone needs to sort this out pronto, as it is very misleading!
on 1 January 2002
Well, there's nothing original about this CD, except for an "disappointment in an original way" that I felt.
Firstly, the idea of superposition of two distinct performances of the same player is not new, I know of an early one done by Milne (and Leith, an alias that he used), of George Gershwin's "An American In Paris", by hand-puncturing the player piano roll, which was a popular recording media in 1920s. (I think Elektra has published it somewhere between 1992-1996, but I was unable to find the exact amazon entry.)
I somehow think that I've listened a better performance of the piano version of "the rite of spring" somewhere, maybe from Pekinels, (Turkish piano duo) not sure.
The performances of Fazil Say mostly seemed better in (written) media than in CDs. :-(