Svetlanov New World Rite

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 (From the New World)
The Rite of Spring
Zavod (The Iron Foundry)

USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov

Recorded live in the Great Hall of the Moscow State Conservatoire – Dvořák on 17 March 1981, Stravinsky on 24 May 1966, Mosolov on 2 October 1975

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2004
Duration: 78 minutes

Performances full of character and individuality, the ‘New World’ opens with more than usual solemnity, Evgeny Svetlanov highlighting dissonance and timpani most dramatically. The first movement’s exposition (not repeated) is generally lively, Svetlanov making a pointed slowing for the flute melody. Thus begins a performance notable for much mellifluous phrasing, trenchant attack, and the bringing out of detail in sometimes unexpected ways, and with an ebb and flow, that while not always organic, is always persuasive, Svetlanov displaying affection for the score and drawing wholesale commitment from his orchestra.

This, then, is a thoroughly fresh account of very familiar music, one that vitalises one’s response to it. Live the performance may be, but there’s obvious editing, not least either side of the Largo’s famous cor anglais melody, which suggests that the source is actually something of a patchwork (and the cor anglais player fluffs a note!). This movement is spaciously done, the phrasing intense and moulded. However, recorded perspectives are susceptible to change (cuts between dress rehearsal and concert performance?). The recording quality itself, although a tad limited, is also vivid and tangible enough – certainly to convey the stinging fortissimos of the brass!

Technical reservations aside, this is an engrossing performance, one with a hard-driven, rhythmically infallible scherzo, Svetlanov introducing lilting contrasts very effectively, and a finale that balances energy and lyricism (even truculence) potently – right up to a final fortissimo flourish that completely overrides the composer’s requested diminuendo and sustained pianissimo; but, then, Svetlanov’s interpretation is also at odds with blandness.

The Rite of Spring is a real ‘Russian’ account (and knocks spots of more recent ‘pretenders’ in this work). It is also very well recorded with a depth of sound and a vividness of detail and impact that belies its 1966 provenance (although don’t expect too much ‘distant’ atmosphere at the start of Part Two). Svetlanov’s weight of attack, his measured tempos and sense of ritual add up to a formidably fine account, one for the theatre rather than the concert hall. The rushes of adrenaline are thrilling as is Svetlanov’s liberation and placing of overlooked details. Control and abandon, fervour and clarity, sophistication and paganism are all present, wonderfully blended, played as if lives depended on it.

Sadly, one must report a poor edit in the closing ‘Sacrificial Dance’, track 18 at 2’31”, that seems to lose a beat or two of music – but this studio account (surely, there’s no trace of an audience) is really something.

As an encore, realism replacing imagination, is Mosolov’s once notorious Iron Foundry, mechanistic and menacing, and delivered in a (definitely live) pile-driving performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content