I doubt the Sacre is actually easy to play but I doubt it holds the terrors for orchestras it once did. And the problem then is this: now that it can be played accurately, how to keep the terrors for the audience it once had and should always have. Many of the available versions are - to my ear - too like a concerto for orchestra, too warm, too fast. Of course it can be thrilling taken at break-neck speed, but a slightly more deliberate pace maximises the menace. A little roughness round the edges does no harm either. But the issue with Gergiev's recording is, of course, the very end, for which you feel you have waited for ever. It must be wrong, mustn't it? Stravinsky would probably be livid. But perhaps what Gergiev was trying to do was give the piece that sense of overwhelming tension and raw fear which early audiences must have experienced. And when the crunch comes - what a crunch. The Sacre does come out of its two big predecessors amongst Stravinsky's ballets, but it's really quite different too, something this recording acknowledges. If it isn't a living thing, this - of all pieces - should be left alone. This one won't leave you alone, even if it annoys you. The one thing it isn't is safe, the sin of sins in any version of the piece.
The coupling with the Scriabin may or may not be a good idea. So far, I've never felt remotely like stepping into it after listening to the Stravinsky. Different parts of the brain and the viscera - both of which are stimulated to the nth degree by Gergiev's reading of the Sacre.
I was introduced to Stravinsky's masterpiece in 1959 when I bought the then highly rated Decca LP featuring Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande. And now in 2013 after hearing numerous versions through the intervening decades, I was persuaded to purchase this version. What a revalation. I am hearing sounds missing before, with phrasing and emphasis that presents a whole new experience and rejuvenates my delight. It must be a combination of Gergiev's perception, the Kirov musicians and the recording technicians. One thing is for sure ... Stravinsky wrote every note and intended each one to be heard. The result is thrilling. I am indebted to those people who have taken the trouble to write their opinions and praise this CD so highly. Without your input I may very well have missed it. Thank you.
I am not normally disposed to make a bee-line for what Gergiev does, in concert or on disc, but when I first heard this performance I was reminded of Stravinsky hearing Bernstein conducting The Rite and (allegedly), in lieu of a long critique, uttering a simple 'Wow!'. Gergiev's is a stupendous performance. 'Wow!' indeed.....
Thank you to the previous 4 reviewers for steering me into buying this recording.
I absolutely LOVE the four-hands piano arrangement of Le Sacre Du Printemps and have lost myself many times in the complexity and dynamic of the recording by Benjamin Frith and Peter Hill. To be honest, I have avoided orchestral recordings because of this.
I finally wanted to take the leap into a full orchestral recording, but found many versions terribly "mechanical" and "clinical". Every note in exactly the right place, but somehow shallow with little character and minimal depth of feeling.
Gergiev's interpretation is challenging for me as the tempo, rhythm and weight of many passages feel very different from the piano arrangement, but the passion and earthiness of this performance took my breath away and I am growing to love it as much as the piano version - for different reasons and in a different way but equally.
As has been mentioned, criticism has been thrown at this recording because it is not as technically precise as some. Surely that is the beauty of this performance. A passionate, characterful, human and raw reading of a powerful milestone composition.
Previous reviewers on Amazon.uk are uniformly positive about this disc. There are far more reviews on Amazon.com but they include some ridiculously harsh and derogatory judgements about the sound, the interpretation and the playing. Too many people on Amazon get their kicks by being superior and snooty about first-rate artists, so let's dispense with their criticisms first. OK; the tam-tam is momentarily lost and out of time right at the beginning of the "Dance of the Earth" and just occasionally the horns are underlit by the engineer, but these tiny flaws pale into insignificance beside the raw energy, commitment and passion of this performance. What so many dolts call "mistakes" are the results of Gergiev's interpretation; he is no slave to the score but uses it as a springboard to deliver a thrilling, newly thought-out version of this seminal work. Thus the cross-rhythms are played with, unwritten pauses are introduced (as before the final chord) and tempi subtly distorted to create specific effects: that's what a conductor is supposed to do, I thought, as long as it is artistically justified - and here it certainly is. I ask you, is it really likely that a conductor of Gergiev's eminence, directing his own orchestra, who have played this difficult piece countless times, would mess up so badly given three days to record less than an hour's music? The sound is an engineering triumph; so much is intense and startling, and so much detail emerges within a dynamic spectrum that ranges from a true ppp to a real fff that this is an audio-buff's dream. The clarity of the sound allows us to hear that Gergiev is at times a bit vocal, as is his wont, but he's hardly the first conductor to supply a few ostinato grunts. To cap it off, we have spectacular performance of Scriabin's post-Wagnerian/Debussyian indulgence "The Poem of Ecstasy": a lush, dreamy account which flowers into a magnificent climax.
I thoroughly recommend this CD. Gergiev brings outthe intense drama and theatricality of this landmark of 20th century Music. If you thought you knew it I would recommend buying this and listening to it. You're in for a shock! From the opening it takes hold of you and casts you into a maelstrom of imagination and musical inventiveness. That Stravinsky was a genius is rarely disputed. This piece, with all its gory detail, its hypnotic rhythmns and raging dissonances, is undoubtedly a masterpiece of contemporary classical music.