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5.0 out of 5 stars The " Rite" choice for those seeking a superb recording? Certainly! (Sorry, I couldn't resist it!), 13 April 2013
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This review is from: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring / Apollon Musagète / Symphonies of Wind Instruments (Audio CD)
Having apologised for my ghastly pun in the title, let me continue in a more serious vein. While I fundamentally disagree with some of the observations about Rattle's development of the BPO and his success in the German Romantic Repertoire (NOT a widely held view and certainly not mine!)expressed in other reviews, I happily concur with the view that this is a superb recording in every aspect.
It is surprising to consider that there have been only 3 other "official" recordings of this work by this great orchestra-2 with Karajan and one with Haitink, currently and inexplicably unavailable. There are recordings of live concerts from various sources, most notably a Karajan performance from 1970 in the RFH which is dazzling, available on Testament.
Rattle on the other hand can be heard on at lest 2 earlier recordings, but this one surpasses his earlier efforts on every count.
In this performance Rattle has followed the example of Karajan in his indispensible 1963 recording by revealing that playing the notes with utmost beauty enhances the "awful" nature of the work, and his use of portamento and rubato produces extraordinary results. It is indeed beautifully played, but with grand climaxes and plenty of fireworks to satisfy audiophiles. It is also extremely well recorded, not always the case from this venue.
The music is not wildly barbaric as in some recordings, but it doesn't need to be as Rattle, following his great predecessor's lead, elicits beautiful glowing string playing, wonderfully rounded brass and plangent woodwind playing and does not allow the percussion to dominate. The results are not as analytical as Boulez projects, nor is the conducting "matter of fact" in the manner of Stravinsky who confessed to being indifferent to the piece when he recorded it, and Rattle certainly intervenes tellingly with subtle and sly rhythmic shifts, and neither does it lack excitement at the climactic moments. My slight regret is that Rattle opts for the 1947 revision, but most do nowadays.
Recordings of the work abound of course-it is now a "rite of passage" (Sorry again!) for any conductor taking up a post to tackle it and very likely record it, and an outright recommendation is difficult to make.
I have already mentioned the Karajan which I regard as indispensable, more so than the Stravinsky which is of course a great historical document and fascinating as such-but it's not the greatest performance if we are honest.
For those requiring stunning sound, I would put in a plea for the Reference Recording by Eji Oué and the Minnesota Orchestra-not only is it stunning as a recording, it is matched by playing and interpretation and it is of the "Original Version." Worth snapping up if you can, trust me.
Rattle has again returned to Apollo on this set, and it is absolutely exquisite, beautifully played with the Berlin strings covering themselves in glory. It is a much more robust sound than Karajan's ethereal string tone on his recording, for me a non-pareil, but the impact of the playing and conducting here cannot be praised in strong enough terms.
Similarly, in the quirky Symphony for Wind Instruments, the other members of the orchestra get their chance to show off their virtuosity-and they to dazzling effect.

There have been no recordings for many years of this work that come close to the brilliance and characterful playing and interpretation of these works, and in this anniversary year of the first performance, if you are seeking your first " Rite" or adding to your collection, you need not hesitate-and the same applies to the other works, particularly the glorious Apollo.
This ranks alongside Karajan, Monteux, Bernstein, Boulez and my much loved Oué as "a must hear "recording-I count the Stravinsky recording as " Hors Concours"-and I unhesitatingly award it 5 stars. Stewart Crowe.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Apr 2013 15:53:27 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Apr 2013 16:00:12 BDT
Stephen Kass says:
Hi Stewart, Rattle and the BPO did in fact record the "Sacre" a few years ago for the film "Rhythm is it". This was the projest in which children and teenagers from Berlin schools danced to Stravinsk´s music. The film was really quite inspiring and the CD was later released. It also included the other music from the film and may for this reason have paaased relatively unnoticed. It was a very fine performance by the BPO and Rattle and I am very very interested to hear whether this new version is even better.
As you may have gathered from our previous correspondence I am no Karajan fan and think that the BPO have improved under Rattle. But let´s not start a quarrel about this.
Nice hearing from you.
Stephen

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2013 16:33:33 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Thanks for your comment Stephen.i was aware of the film, but not the associated CD. Based on my recollection of the DVD, thisnew recording is in a different league. It's in the Karajan vein in that it emphasises the beauty of the Rite while allowing the "awful" moments to unfold for themselves. I'm almost tempted to suggest that the Apollo is the real gold, but that's because it is so great, not because of any inadequacy of the Rite. Ratlle's best recording since the Schoenberg /Brahms compilation. As ever, Stewart.
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