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CD Review

Igor Stravinsky

  • Suite "The Firebird" (1919 Version)
  • The Rite of Spring
  • The Rite of Spring Concert Video
Orchestre National du Capitole Toulouse/Tugan Sokhiev
Video - Live performance from September 17, 2011 filmed by Jean-Pierre Losil
Naïve V5192 CD+DVD (55m + 37m)
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This recording comes with a DVD which is of the orchestra playing Le Sacre. While that is nice to watch once, I don't go to concerts because I find watching the orchestra a distraction. Others may get pleasure from this. This is one of the finest recordings I've ever heard of either piece. For comparison I pulled out my previous favorite of the Rite, Valery Gergiev conducting the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra on Philips 468035 and also Stokowski's Philadelphia recording.

I consider Stravinsky's Sacre in the same category as Beethoven's Eroica. After them classical music was never the same. They are game-changers. Gergiev's impressed me when I first heard is as powerful and that impression has not changed. It is Russian, driven and takes no prisoners. It is darker than the Sokhiev. Another comment I made was "unrelenting". The sound on that recording is somewhat dryer than on the Naïve release and I wish there was more air around the music.

I purchased the Naïve disc following a reference to it in a Gramophone review of the recent Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic recording. It suggested that the music on the Naïve recording sounded like it was being played by a jazz band. I had reservations about it being in the same league as the St. Petersburg performance but what the hey…was I ever wrong. While I am not about to toss the Philips recording (it makes for a fascinating alternative) this has become my new fav. Why? Because it imparts an organic "wow" to the music. This is nature "breathing" in the music and it reminded me of Stokowski's recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra (both the one on RCA and with Disney) In this recording you can visualize the battle between dinosaurs as in Disney. In Gergiev's recording it is more like a battle between two Megatrons. The flute work in the second Introduction is another place to discern a difference between the two. With Gergiev the flutes play the same each time whereas in the Sokhiev recording they vary the music each time just slightly which gives it that "organic" element I refer to.

The Firebird (I am not sure if it is the suite but assume so…there are NO timings anywhere in the booklet to give me a clue) is also in the same league as Stokowski's final performance on a Phase 4 LP (also on CD). Whereas Stokowski highlights (or the engineers) solos to the point that it almost becomes a concerto for orchestra Sokhiev integrates them into the fabric more which is okay. Like the Sacre this is a living, breathing Firebird.

Sound on the Naïve disc is warmer and transparent. The timpani really stand out in the Rite.

Copyright © 2013, Robert Stumpf II