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Reviews: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring - Esa-Pekka Salonen

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Reviews: 6

Site review by Polly Nomial September 16, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Edvin September 1, 2006 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Let me start by confessing two things: I´m not a member of either the Salonen or Mussorgsky fan clubs. The former has always struck me as a bit cold and uninvolved, his Nielsen was a disaster. I liked his Hindemith though. Makes sense.

The Mussorgsky in its original shape is for me a non starter and I much prefer the Rimsky arrangement. The piece doesn´t hold together and is simply a number of ideas one after each other. It is well played by this expert orchestra and I suppose it will satisfy those who enjoy it more than I do. I vaguely remember a Lloyd-Jones performance, and Abbado.

To record the suite from The Miraculous Mandarin is a very bad idea indeed! You miss out on a lot of good music and if you are used to hearing the complete ballet this is so disappointing. Like the Divertimento from Stravinsky´s The Fairy´s Kiss, or even worse. Great playing from a favorite orchestra, but Salonen actually makes me think of The Firebird here. Salonen is a man for minutae, every detail is spot on and I find it sounding more like the impressionists than Bartok. Where is the animal magnetism, the sweat and passion and sexual longing? This hooker wouldn´t stand a chance. No allure or sensuality. No real violence either. A pet Mandarin, well played and very well recorded apart but for some strange noises at the beginning. Is that an organ? It sounds like something from Jurassic Park.

Le Sacre...this old repertoire piece.
Again, well played and an accolade to the orchestra. When I listen to my favorite Rites I always break out in a sweat, not so this time. My first Rite was Bernstein 1958 and it was also my second classical album (my first was a CBS LP titled Stravinsky conducts 1961 containing Histoire du soldat, Movements etc.).
As a whole I don´t think many will complain. Well, I will of course, as always. It is a fairly straight performance and I think this comes from one or two rehearsals too many. I mean, if you can get that ending chord played so perfectly it must have taken some time - the ending chord of the first part. See below. The balance between groups in the orchestra is well recorded and I suspect that some of the not so highlighted brass are at the choice of the conductor. Like the horn glissandi at the close of Augurs of Spring. Can hardly hear them.

The Introduction of the Sacrifice is rather matter of fact. No real mystery and a quick pace. The muted trumpets hardly audible. Why the slowing down in the second tutti of the Ritual Action of the Ancestors? No such mention in the score.

Now, the last chord of the first part may startle some, but Salonen in his quest for detail is correct. Most of the woodwind has a crotchet, a quarter note, but they are dynamically weak. The brass section has either a quaver, an eight note, or a crotchet with a dot above - meaning that it should be played at half its value. But at the lower end we find some tubas playing very high a crotchet with this sign above "-" it means shorten the tone somewhat and accent it slightly. Very high tubas end this chord together with the celli who are thrilling on a crotchet. Stravinsky, a master sound smith.

To conclude..this is not my ultimate Rite and I must say that I find the bass drum over emphatic. But I also lack a more physical side of this music. The sound itself is well balanced and nice, if it wasn´t for that overwhelming bass drum. But maybe that is a problem with my system - but then, why on this alone?
I don´t like this record. It is a far too calculated and thought out and what I miss is a sense of brutality and spontaneity. A bit to much Debussy for my taste, and I love Debussy.

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Review by JohnFerrier October 20, 2006 (5 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have heard few recordings that bring the joy of home audio as much as this premiere recording from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The low frequency extension is superb, the hall has wonderful spaciousness, and the instruments are well voiced. IMHO, this may be a landmark recording. Thanks to the WDCH, LA Phil, maestro Salonen, and DG team.

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Review by Oscar January 16, 2007 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is a fabulous disc !.

The LAPO sounds in glorious form, with a well integrated sound, and, at the same time each family, or group, of instruments having a distinct personality. Salonen brings all this together, in all 3 works contained in the disc, in a most succesfull way.
The Mussorgsky piece is done in it´s original version, which is welcome, since it is not widely available. It contains extraorinary passages, years ahead of the time in which it was composed, undelining the composers avant-gardism. Salonen paints the music with a fine brush, delivering a very detailed interpretation.
It is a pity that Bartok´s piece is not done complete, so we must be happy with the suite, which sounds glorious, in a very athmospheric reading.
And the Rite of Spring, as it is known, is one of the favorite pieces of Salonen, and it shows. The piece still sound so modern, and yet contains so many passages that call for a gentler sound. The Conductor directs with great clarity and metronomic precission, two qualities absolutely essential for this piece.
The recording has great clarity and a very "warm" sound, the orchestra is heard to great effect and detail which benefits the interpretations of Salonen.

A Must !.

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Review by Ivymike February 14, 2007 (8 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I'm quite disappointed with this release. I'm a big fan of all three featured works, particularly the Bartok and Stravinsky; I own a half-dozen recordings of the full-length "Mandarin" and about forty versions of "Rite." This disc falls very near or at the bottom of both preferred lists.

Other posted reviews have described both as sounding too smoothed-over, too rehearsed. I fully concur. "Emasculated" might be too harsh a term to use but it frankly comes close. There is little sense of sheer menace, of danger, which both works so desperately require.

I've heard more involving sound from analogue sources pushing five decades old. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is I don't like about the sound, but for all its smoothness it sounds...fake, to glossy, to engineered. There is plenty of ambience, but little air. How did the engineers manage this? I don't know, unless a heavy hand was used with recording gee-whiz stuff. It's rather confounding. The bass drum is way over the top in a most unnatural way; I appreciate deep, powerful bass but this is just too much.

The most interesting thing on this disc is "Night." Different, unusual. I don't prefer it to the Ravel orchestration, but I'm glad to have experienced it.

I regret having made this purchase. I would recommend sticking with better performances of the Bartok and Stravinsky. For the former, try Abaddo on DG or Boulez on Sony; for the latter, Markevitch on Testament or Simon Rattle on EMI or Bernstein's 1958 version on Sony.

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Review by Luukas January 18, 2014 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
There are thrilling performances of 20th century's most favorites orchestral pieces. Deutsche Grammophon's multichannel sound is excellent and Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra plays marvelous. This SACD's highlight is Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring". I heard many recordings of this exciting ballet (Robert Craft (Naxos), Lorin Maazel (Telarc), Valery Gergiev (Philips) and Sir Simon Rattle (Emi Classics)) but Esa-Pekka Salonen understands music's thrilling moments and rhythms very well. Tempi are fast (performance's time is 33 min.), and bass drum's strikes are stunning (be careful with subwoofer). There are amazing virtuosity, full-scale recording sound and real live adrenalin. Spectacular!

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