The Rite of Spring [1947 edition]
Symphonies of Wind Instruments [1920 original version]
Apollon musagète [1947 revision]
Sir Simon Rattle
Recorded in Philharmonie, Berlin – 20-22 September 2007 (Symphonies), 16-18 February 2011 (Apollon musagète) and 8-10 November 2012
CD No: EMI CLASSICS 7 23611 2 Duration: 76 minutes Reviewed: March 2013
Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Berliner Philharmoniker [EMI]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Beginning with Symphonies of Wind Instruments (track 16, in fact), played in its original scoring of 1920 (Stravinsky revised the instrumentation in 1947 to create a second version), Simon Rattle and his Berlin woodwind- and brass-players create a beguiling and detailed web of sound, closing with the hauntingly moving, sadly expressed ritual that reminds that Symphonies was written in memoriam of Claude Debussy who had died in 1918.
From wind colour to ‘black and white’ strings in Apollo (1928/1947) and to cool beauty, a wonderfully expressive and athletic piece, conceived for dance and ripe for listening to as classical purity. Rattle seems to use to the full strength of Berliner Philharmoniker’s string sections; there is tonal magnificence but no compromise of clarity or light and shade. This performance is a labour of love, dynamically articulated, and fastidiously executed. Some of Stravinsky’s most heartfelt music is here, not least ‘Variation d’Apollon’, strings en masse and solo creating something special. Rattle sees to it that the music’s chasteness, rich romance and rhythmic peculiarities are fully revealed.
As for The Rite of Spring, which opens the disc, Simon Rattle is an old hand of the score’s reporting the violent change of seasons, from tundra Winter to the green shoots of Spring, and the ceremony associated with it, culminating with a girl dancing herself to death. A century on from a Paris premiere (on 29 May 1913) that has entered folklore, The Rite has proved itself a seminal classic. Rattle’s third recording of it has tremendous weight and terrific impact. It’s a thrilling ride, marvellously played and captured in sound that is close, vivid and tangible. Rattle thankfully avoids being over-fast and sensationally crude, retaining folksy and choreographic impulses, finding much mystery in the opening to Part 2 and concluding with a ‘Sacrificial Dance’ that does for the maiden while intoxicating the listener.