Magazine article Gramophone

Anniversary Rite and More from Rattle's Berlin Phil

Magazine article Gramophone

Anniversary Rite and More from Rattle's Berlin Phil

Article excerpt

Stravinsky

The Rite of Spring (a). Symphonies of Wind Instruments (b). Apollon Musagete (c)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle

EMI (F) 723611-2 (76' * DDD)

Recorded live at the Philharmonie, Berlin,

(b) September 20-22, 2007; (c) February 16-18, 2011; (a) November 8-10, 2012

When he heard Herbert von Karajan's 1963 Rite of Spring with the Berlin Philharmonic, Stravinsky--who made several offish recordings of The Rite himself -moaned that Karajan's efforts were 'too polished, a pet savage rather than a real one'.

Stravinsky would surely have admired the roar and gore of Rattle's 1987 Rite of Spring with the CBSO but this new version, I suspect, might have left him cold. 'Too polished' of course raises the question, what did Stravinsky expect? Did he want the bassoonist to deliberately fluff the opening solo, or for Karajan's woodwind section to feign ineptitude? Should The Rite be the exclusive domain of amateur and second-rank orchestras to keep the danger properly dangerous?

I've been enjoying Tugan Sokhiev's new Rite with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulose for precisely the reasons I find this new Rattle performance tepid. Sokhiev's ensemble is tight and controlled, yet exudes character and drive. The physicality and coarse shag of the Toulose orchestra's sound reminded me, of all things, of a 1920s New Orleans jazz band in full cry. And perhaps I might have even looked kindlier on this record had Sokhiev not come my way; 'The Augurs of Spring', though, is needlessly mechanistic, while 'Games of the Rival Tribes' replaces ruthless drive with romanticism.

Although clearly no one's idea of a first-call Rite, Rattle being Rattle, there are plenty of details to admire. …

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