The Toulouse orchestra gives very vivid performances of these two fantastic works as steered by the energetic, intense Tugan Sokhiev. It is music that benefits from a young conductor's visceral sense of the score, particularly in The Rite Of Spring. The sound on the CD is amazing, so that details like the bass clarinet near the beginning of The Rite come across with their full colour, or the low strings in the Introduction to The Firebird Suite (1919). You realise afresh how vibrant the orchestral palette is - it seems that no prehistoric stone is left unturned. On the DVD, which is of The Rite of Spring only, you do get a sense of how charged the atmosphere is in a live performance, where the rhythms are so hard that something is almost bound to fall short on the night, but I didn't notice it here. The final minutes of the Danse sacrale are riveting in their precision and the blaze with which the massed players capture the savagery of the score. The Firebird, which precedes it on the CD, has more notes of Mussorgsky in its elegiac pull and strangeness, and the sense of Tchaikovsky is there too, which has completely disappeared from the Rite. The Firebird is a wonderful work also, but more bright and fantastical than fierce. The two discs come with a hardback presentation including notes and two comic representations of the stories by Sophie Chaussade, both in just three tones. The Firebird on the cover gives some indication of their effect - I found them an interesting adjunct, finding a parallel visual form to ballet as staged. In fact there could have been more of them!
The CD performances of 'Firebird' and 'The Rite of Spring' are good, though no better than many others currently available. What is a real bonus is the DVD, with a filmed live performance of the 'Rite', very well and helpfully filmed so that all the extraordinary demands made on players and conductor are plain to see, in this score which Stravinsky said he 'knew how to play but not how to write down' at the time of its composition. It's fascinating, and helpful too, if you are really interested in the work. So, for that reason good value for money and highly recommended, though if I wanted the best audio performances, I would look elsewhere.